Rock, February 2020

hfnalbum.pngJason Aldean
BMG Records 4050538532944

Aldean is a country superstar with a substantial back-catalogue, but he's probably best known to music lovers here as the guy who was playing onstage in Las Vegas in 2017 when 58 fans were killed by a gunman firing into the crowd. Maybe that experience changed Aldean's perspective but, whatever the reason, this is an extraordinary album. Country and rock have been merging since the late '60s, but what we have here is a new departure, a guitar-rock dominated album with an unmistakably country vocal at its heart. Lyrically, he delivers all the country tropes – the demon drink, small-town cowboy values, women as angel-whores – but the band exists in territory more usually occupied by riff-rockers. JBk


Right Hand Left Hand
Zone Rouge
Bubblewrap Collective BWR 050CD (two LPs: BWR 050DLP)

When did we last feature an album by an almost exclusively instrumental rock guitar duo? Probably never, but Cardiff-based Andrew Plain and Rhodri Viney both play guitars and drums in a style that reminds me of several classic '80s krautrock artists including ambient guitar pioneers Michael Rother and Ashra. They build up their powerfully atmospheric tracks by looping and overlaying guitar lines, sometimes beyond the point of distortion, but usually to a decidedly hypnotic effect. Each track is named after a location, eg, the Siberian open-pit diamond mine at Mirny and nitrate mines in Chile, all of them sites of natural disasters, and wonderfully evoked here. JBk


Are You From The Future?
Hitback Records hitBACK50CD

It's 20 years since London-based pop-rockers Spearmint released their debut album but, despite frequent acclaim, they've never attracted wide attention. Their 11th album is easy on the ear but it's all a bit mellow and decidedly lacking in identity. Maybe their main singer and songwriter, Shirley Lee, is the problem because he (yes, he) rarely sounds as if he cares about the words. Even their recent single, 'St Thomas In The Darkness', starts off with a powerful electronic throb and revolves around an appealing chord pattern but, vocally, it lacks any melodic direction. Top marks for persistence, but they need to sound more committed. JBk


Clint Lowery
God Bless The Renegades
Rise Records Rise 452

As guitarist, vocalist and songwriter of multi-platinum nu-metal juggernaut Sevendust, Clint Lowery has been in the vanguard for more than two decades. This, his first solo album, should help to broaden his audience still further. Lowery's buzzsaw guitars and guttural vocals remain front and centre, but producer Michael 'Elvis' Baskette (Slash, Alter Bridge) contributes analogue synths, keyboards and organ, which add welcome textural variety to the sound. Tracks like the jangling 'You Go First' and the chiming closer, 'Do We Fear God', are more mainstream than the alt-metal for which he is famed, but Sevendust devotees will not be disappointed. JBk