Travellin’ Blue Kings – Wired Up
Naked/Donor Productions CVBA/Inakustik
CD: 11 Songs, 46:48 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Harmonica Blues, All Original Songs, Debut Album
Although the cover art of Travellin’ Blue Kings’ Wired Up features a tangle of analog phones, their debut release possesses a distinctly digital vibe. This Belgian band is intimately familiar with the two meanings of their title phrase: “hyper” and “connected.” The eleven original tracks featured here will provide a dose of non-caffeinated vim and vigor, as well as provide reassurance in these troubled times (especially on track two, “About This World”). Vocally, leading man Stephan Hermsen is clearly reminiscent of Joe Louis Walker and/or Blues Traveler. He’s also a genius on harp and postmodern electric guitar. Backing him up are fellow guitarist and songwriter Jimmy Hontelé, Winnie Penninckx on bass, and Mark Gijbels on drums. Patrick Cuyvers guest stars on Hammond on “I’m a Good Man” and piano on “Into the Night.” Purists might be a bit disappointed at the relative lack of traditional instrumentation and rhythms, but this CD is a fantastic gateway to the blues for Millennials and Generation Z. (I can relate.)
As their website reveals, “Travellin’ is not in the name by chance. These four gentlemen worked with their respective bands all over Europe. You could find them on festival stages in Norway, Sweden, Poland, Germany, France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Italy. And of course, being the Boys from Benelux, in every corner of Belgium and the Netherlands. [Their musical] influences range from Texas to the West Coast, across Memphis heading for Chicago and then to the UK’s British Blues Boom.”
The following three songs are the most “wired up” in terms of feel-good vibes and catchiness.
Track 01: “I Don’t Wanna Stop” – The album begins with a tasty bit of swing/jump blues, perfect for taking a spin on the dance floor right off the bat. “I don’t want to stop this feeling, and I’m feeling so good…The way you look at me makes me want to scream and shout!” Why don’t DJ’s play this song at weddings instead of the old standbys? Dig the red-hot guitar solo in the middle and the overall sassy style.
Track 03: “The Way It Used To Be” – Propelling us into the 21st century with a guitar refrain that sounds like it was played on synthesizer keyboards, three is the magic number. It’s a surefire earworm that might put people in mind of Stevie Ray Vaughan at his finest. Mark Gijbels’ drums are an understated highlight, perfectly balancing the guitar and vocals.
Track 04: “I Cannot Believe” – Listen up, baby boomers: this one’s for you. Real-deal blues abounds on selection four, although the lyrics are a bit hard to understand. The masterful fretwork and smooth bassline more than make up for it. Go ahead and play some air shredder.
Get Wired Up with one of the first great blues rock albums of 2019 – from Belgium, no less!