Gary Cain – Next Stop | Album Review

Gary Cain – Next Stop

Self Release

10 songs – 39 minutes

Gary Cain is a Canadian singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and his latest release, Next Stop, is a stunning tour de force of musicianship. In addition to writing all the music and lyrics, Cain also provides all the vocals and handles all the guitar parts, the bass, percussion and drum programming. Indeed, the only other musician on the album is John Lee who provides B3 organ on the closing track, “A Short, Furious Goodbye”.

The opening track, “Billionaires In Space”, sets out Cain’s stall impressively and also sets the tone for the entire album. The lyrics display an acute political awareness, highlighting the ever-growing wealth gap in society. Cain sings: “Seas are rising, and you got no home. They don’t pay no taxes and we’re on our own. Billionaires in space” and “One small step for mankind to a living wage. Instead we’re living through a second gilded age. Time has come now, won’t you join me as we raise our collective middle finger to the billionaires in space.”

Cain is a mighty impressive guitarist, with a fleet-fingered, heavy-rock edge. “Confusion” is based around a single note riff that recalls Hendrix at his rockiest and a wild outro solo that accurately reflects the anguish of the lyrics. “Gatekeeper” has a funky rock edge and again raises societal issues in the lyrics.

This is blues-rock, but very much at the rock end of the spectrum. It is in-your-face, muscular and aggressive. The songs are often based around single note, heavy guitar riffs and the solos can make Johnny Winter sound like he’s under-playing. But it is also exceptionally well done. Cain is keenly aware of the importance of dynamics, for example in the breakdown before the guitar solo in “Keep On Comin’”.

The one outlier on the album is the aptly named instrumental, “Kitchen Sink” on which Cain demonstrates his mastery of country licks, albeit played at the same breakneck speed and with the same wild abandon as the other tracks on the album. Even here, however, Cain throws in a middle section that somehow recalls the overblown classicism of Ritchie Blackmore. Indeed, there are various hints of Blackmore’s influence throughout the album, particularly in the virtuosity of the guitar solos and the heavy single note riffs that frame many of the songs.

There are no ballads or slower songs on Next Stop. Even the gentler, jazz-rock tinged verses of “Gone” lead inextricably to a heavy, guitar-driven chorus and the slow, melodic guitar part that opens the instrumental “A Short, Furious Goodbye” quickly leads to the short, furious farewell envisaged by the title of the song.

Written and recorded in Austin, Texas, mixed by Brian Moncarz and mastered by Noah Mintz at Lacquer Channel Mastering in North York, Ontario, Next Stop is a ferocious release. Its heavy rock influence may not appeal to all blues fans but there is no denying the serious talent on display here.

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