9 songs – 40 minutes
21-year-old singer/guitarist Lewis Hamilton has led his own eponymously named band since 2010, which might be enough to make most of us feel like under-achievers, but it doesn’t end there. He runs his own recording studio in Scotland and writes his own music, which he records, produces, mixes and masters himself. And, as if that weren’t enough, he also produced the cover art and album graphics for Shipwrecked, his new album on his Lewis Hamilton Music label.
Listeners who have heard Hamilton’s previous three solo releases (such as Ghost Train, favourably reviewed in Bluesblast Magazine in February 2014) will have a fair idea of what to expect from Shipwrecked – traditional blues-rock played with old-fashioned soul and no little technical ability and sung in a smokey, world-worn voice. It’s great music, taking you straight back to the early 1970s in both mood and attitude, albeit with a modern edge.
The opening track, “Old Faces”, has a single-note riff that is reminiscent of Mountain; “Long Way Home” recalls Bad Company in their pomp; and “Water’s Edge” has a finger-picked acoustic motif with over-dubbed electric guitars and harmony vocals that hints at the Doobie Brothers in their gentler moments. At times, tracks like “Head For The Hills” recall the great Rory Gallagher in both structure and musicianship. But Hamilton is significantly more than a mere copyist, showering fearsome leads over each song and singing with real passion while adding fascinating individual kinks to each track keep listeners on their toes.
“Iceberg Blues” contains some searing electric slide guitar (as well as excellent guest harp from Jim Harcus). The ballad “StormySeas” features a curiously discordant slide backing and an unexpectedly stuttering bassline in the bridge that is not what one might usually expect to hear. One of the highlights of the album is the acoustic “Blame” in which Hamilton masterfully blends single notes and strummed chords under a lyric asking how the blame should be apportioned for the singer’s behaviour.
Hamilton’s approach is perhaps best exemplified in his cover of the Son House classic “John The Revelator”, which he starts in a relatively traditional fashion, accompanying his voice with just simple resonator chords, before the rest of the band piles in to create a heavy, grinding, mournful groove. In his solo however he cleverly bypasses the note-heavy solo that many others would have produced, slowly bending strings, enjoying microtonal variations between notes.
Hamilton is well-supported throughout by Nick Hamilton on bass (father to and manager of Lewis) and Ben O’Reilly on drums. Together they create a superb groove that enables Hamilton Jr to overlay his voice and guitars.
Shipwrecked benefits from warm, full-sounding production. One suspects, however, that these songs will really come alive in a live setting. In meantime, Hamilton’s upwards trajectory continues. It will be fascinating to see what he does next.