American Girl Studios – 2014
7 tracks; 25 minutes.
This short CD (more EP than album) really does act as an introduction to a new band from Queensland, Australia. The band is truly international with Irishman Alan Boyle on vocals, UK expats Chris Harvey on guitar and Toby Baron on drums, with Australians Steve Russell and Jeremy Klysz on keys and bass respectively; the appropriately named Neil Keys plays piano on one cut and producer Beachy Wild plays slide guitar on the opening track “Bullets” on which drummer Toby plays acoustic guitar and Jamie Symons adds some harp. All the songs are credited to the full band.
Opening track “Bullets” fades in to an organ-led shuffle that reminds you of Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Ain’t Got You”, a song once covered by the Yardbirds, a good reference point as this first track has a definite 60’s British blues feel with some nice flourishes from Chris on guitar. “Tell Me Why” is a slow tune with some angst-ridden lyrics which suit Alan’s slightly gruff tone well. The tune is not really a blues but the guitar solo certainly is. Some slow piano introduces “Shuffle St” but that is deceptive as once the tune gets going it matches its title well. “This Ain’t Love” adds a dash of soul to the mix, particularly in the churchy organ and clipped Steve Cropper style guitar, backed up by a stinging solo in the middle.
The driving beat behind “Sort It Out” takes us back to the blues shuffle style, piano to the fore as Alan sings of his friend needing to “sort your own shit out” or the relationship is over. “Big City Lights” is a little more frenetic as befits a song about going out to the big city on a Saturday night, even quoting from “Blue Suede Shoes”, before the CD closes with a big ballad in “Lay Me Down Easy”. The piano leads the tune and Alan’s agonised vocal is probably reminiscent of the rock and roll era style of those songs but works less successfully than on the rest of the record.
The band’s website seems to suggest that a full album is in the works so this EP is acting as an introduction to the band. On that basis it works pretty well and indicates that The Bella Reunion has a broad palette of styles within which they can work, so it will be interesting to hear the next recording to see which way they choose to head.