The Blues Bones – Unchained
Donor Productions / Naked
9 Tracks – 37 minutes
The Blues Bones are a Belgian based blues group that first formed in 2011. Their music is described as high energy blues-rock. In 2016, they won the Belgian Blues Challenge and in 2017 finished second in the European Blues Challenge. The group is one of the top performing blues acts in Europe with their three consecutive previous albums reaching #1 on the UK blues charts. Unchained is their sixth album release.
The group consists of Nico De Cock on vocals, Stef Paglia on guitar, Edwin Risbourg – Hammond organ, Rhodes piano, and sax, Geert Boeckx on bass and Jens Roelandt on drums.
The album opens with an ominous sounding “Unchained” that emulates the beat of a chain gang working and tells the story of man sentenced to prison for killing a man and now has to work on a chain gang, counting down the days left to parole and thinking about his future. It touches on that form of labor that was inherent predominantly in the past American south. The following song “Changes” continues that theme as he “tries to do things differently” and “move back into the light.”
“I Cry” is given two variations on the album. The first is a quiet ballad that focuses on the loss all of us have probably felt at some time in our lives. He sings of missing someone who has passed on as “the darkness shadows over me”. A very moving, heartfelt, and emotionally touching but somehow lifting story of memory of that person and perhaps not having the time or capability to have been able to say a final farewell. The sadness and emptiness of that loss is well expressed. The second version appears at the end of the album and offers a more symphonic version.
After that, the group bounces back with a slide-guitar boogie as he has “Time to Learn” as she has left him and he “is crying all alone.” The musicians each have an opportunity to shine in a brief musical interlude that then evolves into the organ having a lead in the latter part of the song. Bass and drums both also have a strong lead throughout the song. He keeps “Moving On” while “…trying to get a glimpse of life at home”, a tale of the life of a traveling musician. The sax plays a major role in this song.
The organ kicks off “Talking to the Lord” as he proclaims, “the Baptist Church will save me” and “does not need you anymore.” Great organ and guitar with a rhythmic drumbeat provide a connection to the listener. “The Road Ahead” is looking into the future with a “focus on the yellow line” and features another fine guitar boogie run. “The Tale of Big Tim Brady” starts with a talking narrative before moving into the vocals with a story of a Chicago bar. Big Tim Brady sat in his corner at the bar drinking whiskey. Handsome Larry and his lady came into the bar and suddenly “Bang bang it happened…trouble and whiskey is a deadly cocktail.”
At the beginning of this review, I cited the band’s resume information describing them as high energy performers. Prior to this album I was not familiar with the group, so while this statement might be true for earlier albums, this album is more emotionally appealing. Nico’s voice is warm and draws you into to his stories. The lyrics and accompanying instrumentation maintain the attention – certainly a winning combination for a band that deserves a better recognition in the US.