12 songs – 53 minutes
Tattered & Torn is the third album from the British blues-rockers, The Bare Bones Boogie Band, following 2012’s Blue and 2010’s Red. Do not be misled by the band’s name. There isn’t a whole lot of boogie on display on Tattered & Torn. Rather, The Bare Bones Boogie Band play stripped-down, no-nonsense, heavy blues-rock, and they play it very well.
The opening song, “Love Like Leather”, is an absolute peach. Starting with delicately plucked acoustic guitar, vocalist Helen Turner gently sings “Tattered and torn, battered and worn, we’ve got love like leather to keep us warm. It’s ragged and frayed; and it’s sure seen better days. We’ve got love like leather and it goes on forever.” The full band then eases in with a mid-paced, grinding groove that expertly captures the feel and attitude of the classic blues-rock bands of the early 1970s.
Featuring Turner on vocals, Iain Black on guitar, Trev Turley on bass and Andy Jones on drums, Tattered & Torn benefits from modern production values but in other respects could have been written and released 40 years ago.
Guitarist Black wrote nine of the 12 songs on the album. “Springtime” was co-written by the other band members and the two covers are Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me In The Morning” (transformed from an acoustic blues lament to slow electric shuffle) and Ike and Tina Turner’s “Black Coffee”.
Black’s approach to both song-writing and soloing appears to be particularly influenced by the late, great Paul Kossoff. The songs lean towards the mid-paced or slower riff-based stomps in which Free specialized. In addition, Black has a warm, fat, Les Paul guitar tone and is not afraid to use a lot of space in his solos. Gratifyingly, the rest of the band doesn’t try to fill in the space, which helps to let the music breathe. The rhythm section of Turley and Jones combines power and groove whilst staying right in the pocket. Turley was recently nominated in the “Best Bass Player” category in the 2014 British Blues Awards and on the evidence of Tattered & Torn, it is a deserved accolade.
The jewel in the crown for The Bare Bones Boogie Band however is Helen Turner’s superb, raspy voice. Equally capable of expressing emotional vulnerability or roaring assertiveness, Turner’s voice has hints of early Rod Stewart in its rough-hewn power. Turner’s take on “Black Coffee” is indicative of her confidence and talent, certainly not coming off second best to Tina Turner’s original incandescent performance.
Recorded at Soundmagic Sounds by Steve Tsoi, Tattered & Torn is a highly enjoyable slice of good old-fashioned blues-rock. If you’re a fan of the music of Free, Janis Joplin, The Faces and early Led Zeppelin, you should check out this release. You will find a lot to enjoy.