It has been around a year and three quarters since Classic Rock Magazine’s 2012 Breakthrough Artist Rival Sons last impressed us with the release of their “Head Down” album. This is an album I have praised with very high regard, and I have followed the band ever since I saw Rival Sons support Judas Priest back in the summer of 2011. Last year, after a string of festival and summer tour dates, original bassist Robin Everhart left the band in August 2013, finding that the touring life didn’t agree with him. Continuing with their touring schedule long-time friend of the band Dave Beste (Maroon5, Rocco Deluca and The Burden) joined on bass before the band returned to the studio January 2014, and again with Grammy-nominated producer Dave Cobb in Nashville, Tennessee the band recorded their 5th release “Great Western Valkyrie“. The verdict:
Great Western Valkyrie immediately doesn’t hold back and straight away has your ass shaking with the opening track “Electric Man”. Complete with guitarist Scott Holiday’s fuzzy guitar sound, commanding tight rhythms from Drummer Mikey Miley and a funky bass groove from new bass man Dave Beste. Jay Buchanan’s distinct vocals resonate power and electrifies throughout this track. It is a frantic opening which works really well leading into “Good Luck”. Where as “Electric Man” had a modern feel but with a 70’s funky twist, “Good Luck” brings us back a few years and is full of old classic sounds. It has an infectious bubbly rhythm and groove. One thing that is instantly noticeable listening to the album is how well Dave Beste seems to have slotted nicely into those huge boots that Robin Everhart left last year. He grooves majestically and is prominent throughout this one.
“Secret” is a real beauty and one of many highlights. Again the whole band is completely coherent throughout this one. This song swings like a beast. It has a heavy deep rhythm and bass groove, helped along with keyboard subtly building in the background. Jay’s vocals shine with albeit some vocal effects used, and sounds as if he could burst a blood vessel singing this one! ”Play The Fool”, with a slightly reduced tempo, has Drummer Mikey Miley driving this track with its stop/start rock and roll guitar groove, complete with a nice little instrumental break towards the end. Jay’s vocals are slightly more reserved, in almost like a story telling mode during the verses.
The slowdown cleverly blends its way further to another highlight “Good Things”. This is a real gem that has that old Southern Soul and Whiskey soaked Blues vibe, like slowly kicking back chilling in the setting sun. For just an instant the very start does have me thinking of the classic “Heard It Through The Grape Vine” by Marvin Gaye, with Dave Beste again shining throughout this one, providing sublime sultry grooves here. Jay croons with warm mellow vocals, and tells us “Good Things will happen. Bad things will happen too. Sometimes it’s someone down the road, sometimes it’s someone next to you”. The song seems to be about enjoying life and the good times while you can, “because you never know when it’s going to end”, as Jay puts it. It is such a sweet mellow magical song.
The most straightforward rocking track on the album and first official single “Open My Eyes” (official video below) has everything to be a successful hit. It has catchy riff work, a solid rhythmic backbone and soaring vocals from Jay. It does sound ever so slightly out of place with the context of the rest of the album. It is however, still a thunderous, energetic melodic monster which should become a crowd pleaser on the live stage. “Rich and the Poor” is a low key affair, with Jay again in rich story telling mode. It sounds like it should be on a film soundtrack and with a similar vibe to “The Heist” from the “Head Down” album, it theoretically could be a sequel. Indeed, this one wouldn’t sound out of place in a Tarantino movie!
The next highlight is the brilliant “Belle Starr”. This one musically meanders and leads you to various moods, and is one of the most unlike Rival Sons tracks on the album. Beginning with the fuzz of Scott’s guitar and funk laden grooves and rhythms from the bass. Miley shines on the drums here and leads the charge. The chorus changes pace and we are lead to a slower, mellow dreamy soundscape. Jay’s vocals are superb in this track, and shows off the great range within his repertoire. There is a slight progressive feel to the song, and sounding different is part of the appeal! “Great Western Valkyrie” is full of surprises and highlights, and like “Face of Light” from the album “Pressure and Time”, and “Jordan” from “Head Down” there is a place for, what I believe could be Rival Sons best ballad to date “Where I Have been”. This is super smooth throughout. It may not be groundbreaking in terms of originality but it is full of charm and with Jay giving it so much soul, sincerity and feeling the song really does move you. Jay’s voice has never sounded purer.
I was already blown away by the content of the album before listening to the final track “Destination On Course”. Now listening intently to what was a mightily impressive melodic opening. Jay, along with the slow dragging rhythms from Miley and Dave, were taking me to a dreamlike place during the verse. It slowly builds and a couple of minutes in that’s when it hit me. My jaw dropped. What can only be described as a high pitched, heavenly, divine falsetto choir, along with the finest instrumental I have ever heard Rival Sons play. Everything clicked into place at that one moment. Scott’s guitar playing was out of this world and I believe I may have now heard Rival Sons finest moment to date. But this did not sound like Rival Sons, and to me it had a Progressive slant to it, with perhaps a hint of David Gilmour in Scott’s playing at one point. The ending on this album is Epic and leaves you breathless.
In summary, Rival Sons previous album “Head Down” was so polished and impressive, I thought it would be very difficult to match never mind beat. They have pulled it off though. With the help and mighty collaboration with producer Dave Cobb yet again, Rival Sons have produced an Epic album that has classic and fresh written all over it. “Great Western Valkyrie” sounds timeless and as well as containing the soulful blues infused rock and roll we know and love so well, Rival Sons have also given us something different, something new. Rival Sons have done some experimenting, and taken us to new places I could never have predicted, but it works and this album leaves me whetting my appetite to hear it being played live. This album easily could be album of the year!
1. Electric Man
2. Good Luck
4. Play The fool
5. Good Things
6. Open My Eyes
7. Rich and the Poor
8. Belle Starr
9. Where I’ve Been
10. Destination On Course
“Great Western Valkyrie” is released in the UK through Earache Records on 9th June 2014, 6th June in Europe and 10th June in the US & Canada
Rival Sons are:
Jay Buchanan – Vocals
Scott Holiday – Guitar
Dave Beste – Bass
Michael Miley – Drums