Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1091

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Simon McBride: Nine Lives (Nugene Records)

Simon McBride: Nine Lives (Nugene Records)



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UK release date 02.04.2012

I donât like live albums, as a rule. The majority are poorly produced and either doctored to hell in the studio after the event, or irritatingly inferior audio quality no matter how serious the gear you play it on. An exception is my fave ever live album; âTower of Power Live! Soul Vaccination,â from way back in 1999. Oh, and thisâ¦..Irish guitarist Simon McBrideâs latest offering, âNine Lives.â It is a superb example of his art, and a very classy production. It is bound to give blues guitarists an erection (even without planning permission!)

Nugene Records label boss Richard Pavitt needs to tell me next weekâs lottery numbers. He has backed just three artists on his British blues label, but all three are world class and winners. Simon, the wonderful Matt Schofield and Ian Siegal, the sole Brit in this yearâs US Blues Music Awards, (formerly the WC Handy Awards.)

Often compared to fellow Belfast boy Gary Moore, and Irish hero Rory Gallagher, Iâd say Simon nods his head toward them at times, but heâs his own man for sure. Building a growing fan-base via consistent live work and via the guitar mags. This new album will do a heck of a lot of good for his profile, and his status as one of the most skilful and exiting electric guitarists of any genre of music, around today.

This 33-year-old musician and âNine Livesâ would give Mr Bonamassa a damn good run for his money. The material is strong. The power trio behind him are solid as a rock. Simon really knows how to turn it on, but doesnât overplay. Itâs refreshing not to hear one single SRV lick on the whole album too. The nearest he comes is track three, the groove-laden âFire Me Up,â which somewhat takes over where The Hoax left off, with a harder edge.

There are nine live tracks, recorded at gigs in The West Midlands, Glasgow and London in May last year. Plus four bonus acoustic tracks. One cover only: the Hendrix-penned âPower of Soul.â Simon sings and plays guitar, Paul Hamilton grabs the sticks and Carl Harvey delivers the bottom end.

Simonâs tone is magnificent throughout. Guitar anoraks bang on about tone these days, and the gear. I think Simon could probably make a great sound from a two bob car boot sale amp and guitar. I caught him live in Leicester recently, and it was a tight, impressive show with light and shade, to appeal to guitarists â there were a few there â and those of us who want to hear fresh songs sung and played well.

His vocal suits the material, holds the attention and has an edge. The CD offers tracks previously released on his two studio albums, plus the previously mentioned new song, âFire Me Up.â âDown To The River,â âChangeâ and the 100 mph âDevilâs Roadâ stand out for me.

âPower of Soul,â ticks all my boxes too, with a spine-tingling solo, and a great groove. Jimi meets Led Zep. Thinking about the title of this one, Iâd say Simon DOES have soul in his playing, and in his sand-paper vocal rasp. Dare I say, I personally prefer his vocal to that of the late Mr Moore and Mr Gallagher, both of whom I got to see and work with - Gary many times with Lizzy and solo, and Rory sadly just once.

The acoustic tracks (not live) are just Simonâs vocal and guitar, and revisit three of the live full band songs, in a stripped down version, plus âComing Home.â Thereâs nowhere to hide, but he doesnât need to. As competent on acoustic, as he is on electric. He really shines in technique and feel.

For me the vocal sits a bit too low in the mix on these acoustic tracks though, and the clarity is not quite as hot as on the live concert tracks perhaps. Not really sure why he/the label felt it necessary to include them, when it is billed as a live CD and they are not live.

The really annoying thing is: the buggerâs self taught! At 15 he entered Young Guitarist of the Year, at Wembley Conference Centre. He won it too! He got his PRS guitar endorsement even before that, to join such stars as Buddy Guy, Carlos Santana and Al Di Meola on their roster.

He began his pro career at 16 in a metal band, replacing their founding guitarist who went on to join Dio and Def Leppard. He toured and made two albums with them, before six years with soul man Andrew Strong of the Commitments movie fame. He got his record deal with Nugene in 2008, and has released two acclaimed blues CDs: âRich Man Fallingâ and âSince Then.â Simon has opened for Derek Trucks, Jeff Beck, Joe Satrianiâs UK tour and Joe Bonamassa, among others.

The single âRich Man Falling,â taken from the albumâs acoustic cut, will be released to radio on the same date as the album is released, and as a free download. Simon will tour here in the summer, and is due to go to the USA soon to record a new studio album, for release late this year.

Perhaps people will hear this CD and stop labelling Simon as the âNEWâ Moore or the âNEWâ Gallagher, and calling out for their songs at his gigs. Give him deserved credit as a man going places on his own abilities, with his own sound. The âONLYâ Simon McBride. More not Moore pleaseâ¦...

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