Bywater Call – Bywater Call
Gypsy Soul Records
10 songs – 45 minutes
Some bands take a few years and several albums to find their true voice. Others seem to appear, apparently out of nowhere, with a fully realized sound and vision from their first release. And the particular joy of such bands is their ability to combine – seemingly effortlessly – the freshness and enthusiasm of youth with the mature sounds of experience. Bywater Call is just such a band and their self-titled debut album is one of those releases that makes one really sit up and take notice. Drawing influences from blues, southern soul, classic rock and jam band, Bywater Call is packed with great songs, all played with sassy confidence, a righteous attitude and no little technical ability. The only thing stopping this album from being included in any list of the best releases of 2020 is that it debuted at the tail-end end of 2019.
Bywater Call comprises Meghan Parnell on lead vocals, Dave Barnes on guitars, Stephen Dyte on trumpet, Bruce McCarthy on drums, Mike Meusel on bass, Julian Nalli on tenor and baritone sax and Alan Zemaitis on keyboards and together they produce a glorious wall of sound without ever over-playing.
The album opens with Barnes’ single note guitar as Zemaitis’s keys slowly emerge in the background before the entire band launch into the funky “Arizona”. The song has an irresistible groove, some sublime gospel-style backing vocals from Samantha Martin, Stacie Tabb, Sherie Marshall and Chantal Williams and an unforgettable lead vocal from Parnell. The upbeat “Forgive”, which follows, has a chorus that mid-70s Fleetwood Mac would have died for, but even that pales beside the gloriously uplifting chorus of “Talking Backwards”.
Parnell is a magnificent singer, blessed with a powerfully gritty voice that can convey passion, anger, sadness and vulnerability with equal conviction and she is backed by a top class band. McCarthy and Meusel lay down a series of exquisite grooves, while Barnes’s slide solo on “Bring Me Down” is worth the price of admission by itself. The band are masters of dynamics, breathing real life into the songs as the intensity ebbs and flows almost organically.
Bywater Call was produced by Darcy Yates and Renan Yildizdogan and recorded and engineered by Thomas Darcy at Taurus, Toronto. Together they captured 10 high quality self-penned tracks that recall the great bands of yore whilst still remaining fresh and vital.
It’s fair to say that this is an album informed by the blues rather than a blues album itself but, if the band weren’t heavily influenced by the blues, they would not be able to produce something like Bywater Call. If you like bands like The Band or the Tedeschi Trucks Band, you will love Bywater Call. Predicting anything will always be an exercise fraught with danger, but there is something special about this band. It will be fascinating to see what they do next.