Album Reviews coming in …..
We are already getting some great reviews of the new Album, including this one by Gareth Bartlett in “The Cornishman”, The Cornish Guardian” and “The West Briton”.
“MOVIN’ Up A Gear might have been a track from last year’s debut Blacktop Deluxe album, but it could easily have been the title of its follow-up.
While Turn Up, Be Nice, Play Hard nudged the blues-rock boundaries when it was released in February 2014, the 11 tracks on Presence And Gain push them even further.
From the stadium rock opener of Crank It Up, there’s a hit of funk, a hint of Americana, a heartrending ballad and a double-dose of sax.
Having played together for longer than their tenure as Blacktops, it’s no surprise that Redruth-based Keith Howe and Alan Ibbotson have cooked up a tremendously tight and tantalising treat – especially with Gareth Young back on production duties at Truro’s Cube Recording.
But it’s Rob Martin that steps in seamlessly to fill the shoes left by outgoing bassist Tim Chapple to keep the Deluxe motor running.
“I’ve very proud of the album,” said Keith.
“I wouldn’t go anywhere else but Cube. Gareth’s input is far more than what knob to press and when. It’s like having a fourth member of the band there to push us further.
“It can be difficult to bring out a second album, especially with a line-up change. It feels like we’ve gone up a gear with this record.
“Every band has to have a tag of some sort, otherwise you can’t sell your music on Amazon or whatever. But I didn’t want to have boundaries or to make it fit into a genre. I didn’t set out to make every track different but, like a lot people, I have a different range of influences to pull from. I find a blues influence in such a wide range of music. The blues is what’s coming out of your soul, regardless of style.”
The album narrowly missed out on a guest appearance from none other than blues icon Walter Trout, now healthy again after a brush with death from Hepatitis C.
“We were so close to having Walter play on it. Walter and I go quite a way back and I played with him at The Wharf in Tavistock in 2013. Backstage he was in a great deal of pain and was in tears so it’s great to see him back to good health.
“We have been lucky over the years. We had (Deep Purple’s) Ian Gillan push us when we did (Blacktop precursor) Blue On Black and opened for Joe Bonamassa when he came over here. But we’ve never taken that for granted,” said Keith.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised with the reaction to the album so far and it’s getting a lot of airplay at the moment. We’re very fortunate that over the years we’ve made some good connections, especially in the Netherlands where the fans really appreciate the sort of music we play (and the Blacktops are heading on tour as we go to press).
“Now begins the hard slog of getting in the right places to play it. And though it might be hard some times, but we wouldn’t want to not do it.
“There are so many good musicians and songwriters about and it’s a bit of a lottery when it comes to success. Some people are in the right place at the right time or know the right person. But it wouldn’t stop me from wanting to play and write just because you don’t get it.”
In 2015, the hard slog for a blues band includes promotion and networking online, and the Tops even have a song on the album about it – Chasin’ Snakes.
“These days, almost as much band time is spent on ‘e-promotion’ such as Facebook as playing music and performing.
“Chasing those elusive gigs, festivals and opportunities feels like trying to catch several snakes at once and you have to keep reinventing yourself by throwing bones out to the gods of marketing. The band is pushing as hard as we can. We’ll just keep pumping away – be it online or on stage. The internet is such an amazing tool to be able to talk to people all over the world. When you don’t have management or PR firms working for you, the best thing you can do is hit as many of the keyboard keys as you can.”
After returning from the Netherlands, Blacktop Deluxe play The Union in Saltash on December 4 and The Seven Stars, Penryn on December 5.