Northbound Acoustic Blues Band – Wish I Was Home
11 songs – 44 minutes
Despite the occasional dip in popularity, the British and Irish love affair with the blues shows no signs of abating. By far the most popular style on this side of the pond today is the guitar-led, overdriven blues-rock of bands like The Nimmo Brothers and the Laurence Jones Band, following the lineage originally established by the likes of Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher and Jeff Beck in the late-1960s. But acoustic blues has long held a special place in the hearts of Celtic and Saxon blues lovers, originally inspired by the first visits of Big Broonzy and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in the 1950s. Indeed, when Muddy Waters first came to the UK in 1958, audiences were taken aback by his use of an electric guitar. Of course, when he returned a year or two later, this time with an acoustic guitar in hand, he discovered that his earlier tour had kick-started the electric blues boom in the UK and the same audiences now wanted to hear his power-driven classics. Today, modern masters like Ian Siegal and Mark Harrison keep the acoustic flag waving proudly and the mighty Chris Corcoran plays his wonderful swing blues and R’n’B on an old 1950’s acoustic Broadway guitar to which he has attached a pick-up.
Northbound are a four-piece acoustic blues band based in the North West of England featuring Pete Barlow on vocals, Marc Ellison on guitar, Matt Timms on harmonica and Chris Bingham on up-right bass. Wish I Was Home is their debut album and contains more than enough to suggest a bright future for the band. All 11 songs were written or co-written by Ellison, with Barlow, Timms and Lynn Ellison also picking up co-writing credits. Neatly avoiding standard 12-bar progressions as a rule, Bingham’s bass and Ellison’s primarily strummed guitar lay down a series of deep grooves over which Timms’ harmonica is able to weave in and out of Barlow’s vocals lines.
Barlow’s vocals carry some of the threat and rage of a Lee Brilleaux, which probably works better on the riff-based tracks such as “Weep And Worry”, the upbeat shuffle of “Drink Away My Blues” or the stomping “Never Been To Mississippi”. Although, having said that, the gospel-influenced slide-driven ballad “When I Cry”, is one of the highlights of the album.
Timms takes the majority of the solos as well as providing licks and fills throughout the verses. Ellison’s guitar is primarily used for rhythm but his slide playing in particular is highly enjoyable (especially on “Credit Card Blues”).
Lyrically, Northbound address traditional blues themes of love lost and won, as well as simple lust. Sometimes, the lyrics can jar, for example in the minor key “She Moves” where the deliberate choice not the rhyme the verse couplets lends a slightly discordant air to the song. But this is a pretty minor observation.
Overall, “Wish I Was Home” is a very impressive debut from Northbound. If you like a modern take on acoustic blues, “Wish I Was Home” is well worth investigating.