Steven Troch Band – The Call
Sing My Title
11 songs – 42 minutes
Belgium has produced some outstanding blues musicians in recent years, including the masterly Tim Ielegems and the much-missed Tiny Legs Tim, but perhaps one should not be surprised, given that this is the country that also gave us the gypsy genius, Django Reinhardt, as well as Adolphe Sax, inventor of the musical instrument that bears his name and which features on so many classic recordings. Steven Troch’s third album, The Call, enables us to add another name to that list.
Recorded by Pieterjan Coopejans at Robot Studios in Ghent and mixed and mastered by the great Kid Andersen at Greaseland Studios, the 11 tracks on display (all written by Troch) are a fascinating experiment in how far one can take the blues as a medium before it becomes a different genre altogether. The fact that Troch is listed as providing lead vocals, harmonica, melodia, cosmic bow and musical saw might warn the listener that The Call was never going to be a collection of simple 12-bar songs.
Troch’s first-rate band comprises Liesbeth Sprangers on bass and vocals, Matti De Rijcke on guitars and vocals, and Bernd Coene on drums and percussion. Guest musicians include Luk Vermeir on piano, organ and mellotron, Bart Vervaeck on pedal steel guitar, Luigi De Gaspari on trombone and John Halbleib on trumpet. The album was recorded almost entirely live, and it certainly has the zip and edge to it that one would expect from a live performance.
The album opens with the belting, New Orleans-flavoured “Bad Times”. Troch sings in a husky, intimate tone that recalls A.J. Croce’s perfectly-weathered voice and his harmonica soars and wails. The minor key “That’s Life” exemplifies Troch’s slightly off-the-wall lyrical approach and contains another on the money harp solo. “Ghetto Gap”, by contrast, is based around a slow, threatening groove from Coene and Sprangers over which De Rijcke lays down some ferociously off-kilter slide guitar.
“The One You Can Rely On” has an almost disco groove (great drums from Coene), superb harmony vocals and a defining guitar solo from Rijcke. By contrast, the instrumental “Call of Cornholio” sounds like the theme song to a Spaghetti Western, with Troch’s plaintive harmonica, the reverb-laden guitar and Halbleib’s rousing trumpet. “Easier To Be Myself” starts off sounding like a long-lost acoustic Beatles song before upping the gears into a toe-tapping boogie and with another gloriously wild solo from Rijcke.
The shuffle of “So Much To Do” has some razor sharp lyrics while the Ska-influenced “Waiting” leads nicely into the closing number, the dreamy “Slowly Drive Away”.
Perhaps the only mis-step on the album is the cod-reggae of “On An Island” with a curiously but perhaps deliberately banal lyric.
Overall, however, The Call is a very impressive release, with some well-written songs, excellently played. Definitely worth investigating.