For those of you who are not familiar with the band Blues Pills yet, you’ve been missing out big time. But no worries, chances are that, even if you don’t get to read my ‘Blues Pills – Blues Pills Review’ below, you’ll hear from them sooner or later.
Before I get started, the following article is going to be a little bit different from the many ‘run-of-the-mill’ reviews of Blues Pills’ 2014 CD and DVD release. I on purpose will try to keep comparisons to other bands or artists of the genre to a minimum. That’s not to say that I disagree with statements suggesting that Blues Pills sound like a mix of Cream, Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, etc. – you get the point. I understand why people make such references, but by doing so, there is an inherent danger of a new band being pressed into a certain category in addition to not being able to reasonably manage consumer expectations. So, thanks in advance for indulging me.
I heard of Blues Pills only a few months ago, more or less by accident. Somebody posted a video on Facebook, I believe it was a snippet of the ‘Live at Rockpalast’ performance. I found the band’s name interesting, so I clicked on the link and in hindsight, thank God I did. It took me about 10 seconds to know that this band is special – and this is not to credit myself for my non-existing talent to spot raw talent, but rather due to the fact that those guys are simply that good. Either way, another 10 seconds later I was over on iTunes and bought their entire catalog of available material (including ‘Bliss’ EP, ‘Live at Rockpalast’, ‘Black Smoke 7”, ‘Devil Man’ EP).
But as far as the amazement is concerned, you don’t have to take my word for it; the accolades come from all over the place including the media and many of their fellow colleagues in the biz. Carter Kenney of Orchid stated: “Blues Pills sounds like a super group straight out of 1967 San Francisco – Big Brother and The Holding Company, thrown to the dirty floor to be mopped up by The Jimi Hendrix Experience Band. It’s great to see a band doing the 60s thing with such reverence for authenticity.” Witchcraft’s Ola Hendriksson seems equality excited: “Blues Pills is one of the most interesting new acts from Sweden. Heavy well played blues, a new favorite!”
While I couldn’t agree more with those statements, I think it’s important to point out that – despite the omnipresent resemblance with the aforementioned and other acts of the 60ies and 70ies – Blues Pills has their own sound and their own approach to blues-music. Sure, the influence of many greats of the Blues and Rock genre is undeniable, but I think it would be a mistake to not acknowledge their individuality as a band an as (individual) musicians. I guess I’m trying to make a point in emphasizing that their “reverence for authenticity” doesn’t mean that they don’t add their own flavour instead of just trying to hop on the band waggon of ‘let’s try to sound as retro as possible’ groups (even though, as you know, I have absolutely nothing against retro sounding bands – quite the opposite is true).
So, let’s talk about the Blues Pills band members. Elin Larsson is in charge of the vocals. And what a delight she is. There are not too many female singers in Blues/Rock groups, let alone good ones – the same is true for their male counterparts but they have the advantage fly under the radar, because male signers are in the majority. Irrespectively of all that, Elin stands out, though, at least in my opinion. Because she knows how to navigate and lead through a song. Sure, she has a powerful voice, but that’s just one part of the equation. Knowing how to best use and moderate such a powerful instrument is a completely different skill. Especially when you sing blues songs.
Zack Anderson on bass and Cory Berry on drums are the foundation of the band. They do a hell of a job in doing two things: providing a solid basis for vocals and guitar to build on to, without sounding mechanical. Keeping a song together and driving it forward at the same time is equality as important as belting out high notes or playing lead-guitar.
That leaves me with Dorian Sorriaux, Blues Pills’ guitarist. Similar to what I just explained about Elin’s approach to vocals, Dorian knows what to play and when to play it. Of course, he can play fast and fluent, but that’s – in my opinion – not all that important when you play blues guitar. Without getting too philosophical, sometimes it’s about the notes that you don’t play. As I mentioned in my video review, it can be incredibly annoying when a guitarist tries to pack 500 notes into 10 seconds. Nothing wrong with showcasing your technical skills as long as it’s conducive to the song. And that’s what he does remarkably well. His phrasing reminds me at times of Rory Gallagher’s playing which – being a massive Rory fan myself – makes me admittedly biased to some degree. But I think it’s important to realize, that Dorian has his own style. He’s not trying to copy others, but rather combining his influences with his own approach to music. Lastly, he’s got a killer sound! Got to love them Orange amps..;-)
Alright, before I wrap-up, here is the list of tracks you’ll find on the 2014 full album release of the Blues Pills CD and DVD:
Blues Pills LP CD:
01 – High Class Woman 4:28
02 – Ain’t No Change 4:58
03 – Jupiter 4:06
04 – Black Smoke 5:09
05 – River 4:23
06 – No Hope Left For Me 3:53
07 – Devil Man 3:06
08 – Astralplane 4:39
09 – Gypsy 3:09
10 – Little Sun 4:50
Blues Pills DVD, live at the Hammer of Doom 2013
01 – Bliss 4:14
02 – Dig In 5:57
03 – Devil Man 4:53
04 – Little Sun 4:33
05 – Mind Exit 5:51
06 – Astralplane 5:40
07 – Black Smoke 7:24
08 – Interview 10:55
Nuclear Blast made a very smart move in getting Blues Pills under their wings early on. As far as the quality of the production is concerned, in the capable hands of Don Alsterberg, who also was in charge of Graveyard’s Hisingen Blues, there was little room for mistakes. So no worries, even if you have high expectations, you won’t get disappointed.
Despite their youth, Blues Pills is a surprisingly mature, top-class act. The band found a well-balanced and seemingly effortless approach of combining authentic blues with hard rock elements. A thoroughly delightful experience if you’re into good music. So, go out there and get yourself a treat – here are a few links to the Blues Pills merchandise and other relevant sources: