Angel Forrest – Hell Bent With Grace
11 songs – 46 minutes
Hell Bent With Grace is the 11th album from Canadian vocalist Angel Forrest since her 1996 debut. Featuring 11 smartly-written blues-rock tracks, it’s a highly enjoyable release from the Montreal chanteuse.
The album was recorded at Tunebender, S.M.D. Studio R.P. and Morningstar Studio with expert engineering by Olivier St Pierre and Boris Petrowski. Hell Bent With Grace showcases an artist at the peak of her powers, with a confident assertiveness that emanates from every song.
Forrest is joined on Hell Bent… by her long-time partners, co-writers and producers, Denis Coulombe on acoustic guitar, bass and backing vocals and Ricky Paquette on electric guitars, dobro and backing vocals. The album also features Bernard Quessy on B-3 and Wurlitzer, Alex McElcheran on bass and Sly Coulombe on drums.
Forrest, Coulombe and Paquette are a tack-sharp writing team. With mature lyrics addressing everything from the menopause (“Menie The Monster”) and mental health (the Eagles-esque “The Blame Game”) to the simple joys of partying (“Get It On”), the music is essentially guitar-led modern blues-rock, but with sufficient dynamics and unexpectedly turns to keep the listener entertained throughout. So a ballad such as “Grace” sees a series of increasing crescendos rolling like waves over the course of the song. The gentle “Indian Moon” lasts only just over a minute and a half, but features some lovely acoustic slide playing from Paquette.
Forrest’s powerful voice is a raucous thing of beauty, with a delicious edge of grit, putting it perhaps half-way between Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin. The vulnerability she displays on a track like the disco-rock of “Bea” is winning, whilst her desperation and fury at someone trying to steal her man on “Bane Lorraine” is almost palpable (and nicely echoed in Paquette’s feedback-riddled breakdown). But to the credit of all concerned, the focus of Hell Bent… is very much on the song, rather than the singer or the soloist.
Reflecting the efforts put into the music and lyrics, significant thought has also gone into the CD cover, with its separate lyrics booklet that also contains some lovely sketches by Dylan Sky.
Hell Bent With Grace is a blues-rock album that is definitely closer to rock than blues. Having said that however the blues informs everything Forrest and her cohorts do, even the riff-tastic “Looking Glass”, which must be a highlight of their live shows (assuming they can duplicate the Thin Lizzy-styled twin guitar approach).
The photo of the band on the inner sleeve of the CD cover shows four of the five band members with huge grins on their faces and that happiness and confidence is reflected in music within. Hell Bent With Grace is a very impressive release and well worth investigating for those who enjoy modern blues-rock.