Ruf Records RUF 1220
13 songs – 58 minutes
One of the longest enduring bands in blues history, Savoy Brown celebrates 50 years in the business with the release of The Devil To Pay, the 45th album in leader Kim Simmonds’ catalog, and it delivers a rock-solid collection of original material with a familiar feel.
A self-taught string-bender, Simmons formed the band in London as a teenager after a chance meeting with harp player John O’Leary in 1965. Along with original vocalist Bryce Portius, keyboard player Trevor Jeavons, bassist Ray Chappell and drummer Leo Manning, they quickly moved to the forefront of the British blues revival alongside John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream and Eric Clapton, scoring hits with such classics as “I’m Tired,” “Tell Mama,” “Hellbound Train” and “A Hard Way To Go.”
The band’s gone through dozens of revisions through the years, and has featured at least 22 different percussionists, 20 bassists, 11 vocalists, nine guitarists, three harmonica players and one sax player through the decades, including future Foghat founders Tony Stevens, Dave Peverett and Roger Earl. But the one constant has been lead singer/guitarist/harmonica player Simmonds. He’s joined here by bandmates Pat DeSalvo (bass) and Garnet Grimm (drums), who’ve worked behind him since 2009.
The Devil To Pay kicks off with “Ain’t Got Nobody,” a slow, relaxed five-minute grinder that gives Simmonds plenty of space to deliver straight-ahead single-note guitar runs as he delivers a plea for the return of the best love he’s ever had. The blues runs like blood from his strings as he relates his torment. The pace quickens and brightens for the walking shuffle “Bad Weather Brewing,” which features steady triplets from Grimm and a funky, complimentary bass line from DeSalvo.
The autobiographical “Grew Up In The Blues” leads into the loping “When Love Goes Wrong,” a warning that when your lover leaves you, tears will fall. “Oh Rosa” features Simmonds on harmonica, an instrument and sound usually missing from recordings on the Ruf label. He works the high reeds before launching into another song of departure. This time, he’s leaving and requesting that his lady always keep him in mind because, when he returns, he’ll “walk a straight line.”
The cover tune “The Devil To Pay” is a high-energy blues-rocker that brings to account all the misdeeds the singer’s responsible for in life. The band gets funky again for “Stop Throwing Your Love Around,” a catchy warning to a woman who’s treating the singer “like a clown.” “Snakin’” gives Simmonds a chance to stretch out on the six-string in an instrumental delivered in a style that’s reminiscent of Texas guitar legend Freddy King before another burner, “Got An Awful Feeling,” delivers unspecified fears about loneliness and poverty. Simmonds’ slide work is featured on “I’ve Been Drinking” before “Watch My Woman,” “Whiskey Headed Baby” and “Evil Eye” conclude the set.
Tasty, polished and available everywhere. It won’t matter if you’re a new fan or someone who’s been there from the beginning: You’ll like The Devil To Pay.