The Blue Chevys – The Night Calls
Naked Productions NP061
10 songs – 46 minutes
Formed by a trio of high school students in Haacht, Belgium, in 1989, The Blue Chevys are one of the longest running bands in Europe, mixing blues-rock, rockabilly and more, and they drive steadily out of the gate with this CD, a welcome follow-up to Twice Fifteen, an anthology that celebrated their 30th anniversary, three years ago.
The original lineup — vocalist/harp player Kris Bries and brothers Frederic and Philippe Martello on guitar, backing vocals and percussion – remain intact, but the group – which started out as a vintage rock and neo-rockabilly band — has gone through several different iterations and multiple personnel changes through the years. In their current iteration, they’re a seven-piece unit with a horn section.
They were first exposed to the real-deal artform in the early ‘90s when they appeared at Swing Blues Festival in their homeland and shared the bill with two major American acts, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Mike Morgan & the Crawl, along with harp player Paul Lamb and his long-running group, the King Snakes, out of England.
Their recording career took off in 2003 when they teamed with guitarist Filip Casteels for their debut CD, Motel Birdcage, after his departure from El Fish, another popular Belgian blues band in the era. They subsequently worked under the name Poplawsky later in the decade after enlisting a keyboard player into their roster and moving away from rock toward Americana, R&B and roots. They released their second disc, Moving On, in 2007, an album that featured contributions from Minnesota bluesman Teddy Morgan.
They also released an EP, Turn It Back, in 2015 — three years after reverting to their original name – and have been featured festival performers across Europe ever since. In addition to the founding trio, the current lineup includes Jean-Luc Cremens on bass, Sven Smekens on rhythm guitar and a horn section composed of Kim Vandeweyer (trumpet) and Koen Desloovere (sax). They’re augmented by guest appearances from former bandmate Jan Ursi on keys and Dirk Lekenne on lap steel guitar.
An all-original set penned by Kris and Frederic and delivered throughout in unaccented English, a stinging guitar hook and heavy drumbeat opens “The Night Calls.” It’s an interesting blues-rocker that finds the singer having made up his mind to win back his lady, and he’s driving through red lights to get to her side. Bries’ vocals are clear and crisp, and the instrumental fills sting. It gives way to “Willow Tree,” an unhurried, unforced shuffle that yearns for bygone, better days.
The horns come to the fore and the band gets a little funky with “Fun No More,” a percussive complaint about COVID-19 with folks dealing with the consequences of unemployment, confinement and more. Frederic’s minor-key mid-tune solo shines. The pace quickens for the horn- and six-string-driven rocker, “Thin Line,” before the band adopts Latin rhythms for “Got That Feeling,” a minor-key ballad that describes an overwhelming sensation that something just isn’t right.
Lekenne’s lap steel opens the haunting “Leaving.” Delivered from the point of view of a man walking in a downpour toward a bus, it reflects on the recent revelation that his lady’s fallen in love with someone “one foot taller” with “white teeth and a Cadillac.” The music brightens but the theme continues in “Lonely People” before the unhurried rocker, “Pick You Up,” foretells a future where the singer will “fly around like Superman” and save the object of his affection from all the “angry men” that surround her. The rocker “Never Gone” comes across with a Rolling Stones feel before the pleasant “Cool Me Off” brings the action to a positive close.
Blues-rock the way it used to be, this album is a welcome break from the shredding and pyrotechnics that dominate the medium today. If you’re old-school like I am, you’ll enjoy it, too. Available through Amazon, Apple Music and other outlets online.