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The Electric Blues Reaction

Tchula Junction

by Ian Mann

October 04, 2010


EBR's pungent blend of blues rock ensures that they're a popular live act, enjoyed as much by rock fans as by specialist blues audiences.

The Electric Blues Reaction

“Tchula Junction”

(Darkwing Records)

The Electric Blues Reaction hail from the Kington area in the Welsh Marches and are a popular attraction on the still thriving and surprisingly high quality local live music circuit. The group’s drummer/vocalist Nick Smith and guitarist Troy Redfern also trade as an acoustic blues duo under the name Troy and Nick and both are also members of the four piece rock/blues cover band Hot Rats. I’ve seen all three incarnations at my local live music pub the Bell Inn in Leominster and been impressed with the quality of all three acts. Smith’s ability to sing and drum simultaneously and to do each with equal conviction is impressive in itself even if it does leave the band without an orthodox front man.

The Electric Blues Reaction sees Smith and Redfern joined by bassist Stuart MacDonald to form a hard hitting electric blues trio. With the exception of Son House’s blues standard “John The Revelator” the material is comprised entirely of original material in the blues/rock vein penned by Redfern and Smith. The grainy cover shot depicts the hirsute trio in plaid shirts looking like refugees from the grunge era or maybe even the Edgar Broughton Band. There’s something defiantly old fashioned about the trio but for all the retro trappings they still exhibit an agreeably contemporary rock edge.

EBR play high octane blues rock influenced by Freddie King, Elmore James, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix and a host of other bluesmen, both black and white. Indeed bassist MacDonald is a veteran of the great 60’s British Blues Boom and was a member of the fondly remembered (and since reformed) group Killing Floor. He also backed blues legends such as Freddy King, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Otis Spann back in the day as well as appearing with Peace, a band fronted by future Free vocalist Paul Rogers. There’s a hard won rawness and authenticity about EBR’s work as typified by the opening “Wrong Side Of The Tracks”, a blistering slice of slide driven blues rock introduced by locomotive noises and featuring Smith’s raw vocals. From the pen of Redfern it’s heavy stuff as is the following “So Long”, another Redfern song. EBR are as much rock as blues and subtlety isn’t always high on their list of priorities, although they do deliver a modicum of this later on and also as part of the Troy and Nick duo.

Also by Redfern the title track conjures up apocalyptic images as the group explore the interface between blues and metal. All the great early metal bands, Sabbath, Purple and of course Zeppelin had a thorough grounding in the blues, something their less convincing successors often lacked.

Co-written by Redfern and Smith “Hangman’s Waiting” explores acoustic blues with Redfern’s acoustic slide guitar but, courtesy of Smith’s desolate haunting vocal and Redfern’s graphic lyrical imagery, the aura of impending doom is never far away. The second half of the tune erupts in an epic guitar solo backed by Smith’s wordless vocal wail.

Another joint credit “Cherry Lips” is lascivious, low down and dirty with leering vocals and more scabrous slide guitar. Son House’s “John The Revelator” is a popular vehicle for contemporary blues musicians and EBR do full justice to the song’s disturbing biblical imagery.

“The Other Side”, another Redfern/Smith collaboration is less convincing, a rather pedestrian slice of blues boogie enlivened by Redfern’s guitar work. He’s a highly versatile guitarist, switching easily between rock and blues styles. Smith’s raw vocals and solid drumming also serve the group well with MacDonald happy to hold down the bottom end in steady but unspectacular fashion.

The band’s raw power, guttural vocals and love of biblical imagery sometimes remind me of Yorkshire’s Blues Revelator Band who made a big impression on me as part of the Brecon Jazz Festival Stroller programme a few years ago. I don’t know if they’re still going but there’s plenty of all these qualities apparent in Redfern’s “Promised Land”.

However “Lose Control”, another Redfern/Smith collaboration is concerned with altogether earthier matters, the whole thing delivered at a frenetic pace.

The closing “In The Ground” searches for an epic grandeur in the manner of Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks” and it’s to EBR’s credit that by and large it succeeds courtesy of dazzling slide guitar, impassioned vocals and a stalking bass line. Good stuff.

EBR’s pungent blend of blues rock ensures that they’re a popular live act, enjoyed by rock fans as much as by specialist blues audiences. They may not be particularly subtle and may be considered “too rock” by blues purists but there’s no denying the band’s visceral power. This raw but very professional sounding album suggests that they are ready for bigger stages than the local pub circuit.

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Since the above was written Redfern has taken the opportunity of radically remixing and repackaging the album.

The current edition of “Tchula Junction” features striking new artwork by Sam Hayles and adds the harmonica playing of guest Richard Evans to the tune “The Way Back Home”.

Redfern has cleaned up the sound to give it a steely, polished blues-rock sheen but in doing so has sacrificed little of the group’s bite and intensity. The new version is more clearly aimed at the rock/metal market but the trio’s obvious love of the blues still shines through.

Most of the tracks from the original version of “Tchula Junction” remain with the exception of “Lose Control”. However all is not lost as half a dozen new songs appear on this new deluxe version. These are “Firestorm”, “Where The Sun Don’t Shine”, “Ain’t No Hidin’ From The Blues”,“Swamp Fever”, “The Way Back Home” and “Nothing Left To Say”, all delivered in the classic EBR blues- rock style. The remastered and repackaged “Tchula Junction” provides an excellent value for money package of heavy blues- rock.

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