Cleopatra Records – 2015
11 tracks: 53 minutes
Tom Killner is a 19-year old singer, guitarist and composer from the North of England and this is his debut release. Tom operates in a trio format with Jake Ashton on drums and Nigel Killner on bass; producer Keith Angle adds occasional percussion and Jesse Courts provides backing vocals. The album divides neatly into two halves with five covers at the start and six originals afterwards.
The covers are a diverse selection and may have been selected to show Tom’s range. Some work better than others. Opening cut is “Comin’ Home”, here credited to ‘D. Green’ but is clearly the Delaney & Bonnie tune which famously had Eric Clapton on guitar. Tom’s guitar work is close to Eric’s but Tom is clearly not Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett’s vocal parts are taken by Jesse; still, with Keith’s latin percussion it’s a decent version. “Feeling Good”, the Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley tune made famous by Nina Simone and now covered quite often by a range of artists, notably here in the UK where solid versions have appeared on albums by the likes of Connie Lush, Kyla Brox and Aynsley Lister, so it is a song that is heard quite often. Tom’s take on the song is rather histrionic and probably owes most to Joe Bonamassa’s version. Tom clearly listens to modern rock and Cage The Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” works OK and allows Tom to play some chugging rhythm guitar over which he lays a solid solo. However, Seether’s “Fake It” might be a tricky one for radio play with a chorus that uses the ‘F’ word several times! A solid acoustic version of “Cocaine Blues” has some lovely slide work and is a song that suits Tom’s voice, possibly the pick of the covers for this reviewer.
The originals start with the title track which is a co-write with Jesse, a moody seven minute slow tune with lots of fine and understated guitar, the song discussing some of life’s difficult challenges. The remaining five songs are all Tom’s originals: “Lifting Me Higher” and “Whisky Haze” are both mid-paced tunes with good guitar work in different styles, the former having more than a hint of soul, the latter more of a shuffle. Blues rock fans will enjoy the uptempo “Do It Again” with its AC/DC-ish core riff and booming solo, the whole definitely getting the toes tapping. A second epic ballad “Taking Its Toll” (with a tune that recalls Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man”) again shows the sensitive side of Tom’s playing. The final track is “Midnight Call”, an aggressive piece of blues-rock with plenty of wah-wah work.
In summary this album showcases Tom’s abilities pretty well. He is clearly a strong guitarist who can adapt to a variety of settings. For this reviewer Tom’s own material was stronger than the covers chosen but the idea of showing Tom is those different settings is probably sound for a debut release. We can expect to hear more from Mr Killner!