Blues Arcadia – Now Or Never | Album Review

Blues Arcadia – Now or Never


11 songs – 41 minutes

It has been four long years since Blues Arcadia’s Carnival Of Fools was warmly reviewed in Blues Blast Magazine. Thankfully, Now Or Never shows no signs of being that “difficult second album”. Instead, we have 11 well-crafted and self-written tracks that tread a fine line between blues, soul and rock. The Australian band describes their sound as “dirty soul” and that is actually a pretty apt designation.

Comprising Alan Boyle on vocals, Paula Girvan on keyboards, Jeremy Klysz on bass, Casper Hall on drums and Chris Harvey on guitar, Blues Arcadia are a mightily exciting band. The rhythm section of Klysz and Hall lays down a variety of irresistible grooves over which Girvan and Harvey play a series of interesting and very funky rhythm parts (check out “Postmodern Times” for how to make a modern blues song structure) and ear-catching solos. Boyle’s excellent, passionate voice fits the music perfectly. Boyle and Harris co-wrote all the songs. Boyle has a clever way with lyrics, while the structures of the songs are consistently unexpected.

Guest musicians include Clint Allen and Dan Quigley on trumpet, Cassie Whitehead on tenor saxophone and Alex Price on tenor and baritone saxophone.

Now Or Never was recorded and missed by Jeff Lovejoy at Blackbox Studios in Moorooka, Queensland, Australia, with additional recording by Casper Hall at Sound Out Studios in Morningside, Queensland, and mastering by Matthew Gray. Kudos to all for capturing some blistering performances so pristinely.

The opening track, “Dollar Bill”, sets out the Blues Arcadia stall nicely. Harvey’s choppy, edgy guitar leads the band into a funky groove and a giant earworm of a chorus. Boyle’s airy voice recalls that of early Bobby Tench and indeed the entire band sometimes recalls that second Jeff Beck Group of 1971/72 with its blend of blues, soul, funk and rock. The focus is very much on the song, so “Cry Baby” sounds like the sort of song Eric Clapton wishes he could have written in the 1980s while “Follow The Leader” is perhaps funkiest track on the record. The blues-soul of “Feets Don’t Fail Me Now” floats on Girvan’s dreamy chord progression, while the closing ballad “More Than Less” features just Harvey’s jazz-tinged guitar chording and Boyle’s desperate voice for the first minute and a half before the rest of the band kicks in. Girvan’s sparse piano stands out on the title track.

Blues Arcadia are a seriously impressive band and Now Or Never is a hugely enjoyable release. Check it out.

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