Self-Release – 2016
11 tracks; 43 minutes
Hell’s Gate Blues Band comes from the Vancouver area and this is their second CD release. There is just one cover here, with most of the material written by singer Lisa Fennell and guitarist Norm Campbell and two contributions from harp player Peter Selnar. A seven-piece band, the other players are Alan Bingley (guitar), Rick Lawrence (keys), Glenn Rowley (bass) and Peter Smith (drums). The material is predominantly melodic blues rock.
“Attraction” opens with acoustic guitar and high register harp that sounds almost like a flute, Lisa recounting an immediate attraction to a guy at a party, the whole having a latter-day Fleetwood Mac feel. Lisa has a decent range to her vocals and “Burning Bridges” offers her the chance to show that as she starts in a deeper register but has to operate also in a higher tone for the chorus. A chugging riff underpins this strong song (written by Norm and Aloma Steele), the lyrics describing how to get over a failed relationship: “I’m fine with the outcome, I’ll be fine for a while, ‘cos while you’re burning bridges I’m rebuilding my smile”. Lisa then seems torn between “Love Or The Booze”, an uptempo number with twin guitar riffs and harp before the title track “Thin Line” takes us back into difficult relationship territory with Peter’s harp again featured. “Smoke And Ashes” is another slow-paced number in which Lisa describes her passion for the blues, name-checking many of the blues greats in the lyrics, Rick playing some lyrical piano.
One of the standout tracks here is “Stitch The Pain” which has an earworm chorus, Lisa seeking a way to mend her broken heart: “You tell me that you love me, that you’ll never leave. You say it’s for ever and I want to believe, but you can’t stitch the pain in my body, it courses through my veins.” With warm organ underpinning the song this is definitely Lisa’s finest hour on vocals. Lightening the mood we then get some funky rhythm guitar on “Dancing Shoes” before “Missing You” completes the writing contributions of Lisa and Norm with another sad song played over an acoustic backdrop and Peter’s mournful harp.
Peter then offers two songs: “Woodstock Redux” takes us back to the 1969 festival with many of the stars name-checked and “Smiling Girls” provides a lead vocal opportunity for Norm though he is not as strong a vocalist as Lisa. Both these tunes have plenty of guitar and harp and are a little more blues-orientated than the rest of the album. Lisa closes the album with a dramatic reading of Melissa Etheridge’s “Bring Me Some Water” which she sings really well.
This is a solid album of original material which shows a band with plenty of talent and promise.