Lucky 13

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Lucky 13

In our review of Kris Barras’s self-titled debut album, we noted, “it’s a pleasant relief to hear as much tangible effort invested in vocal delivery and band accompaniment as in instrumental heroism”. It’s pleasing that this path has been followed again on Lucky 13. Indeed, the Barras trio has been augmented by Matt Vowels on keyboards and guest Simon Lane’s blues harp, prominent, yet never self-indulgent, adding flavour especially to ‘Heart On Your Sleeve’ and ‘Big City Lights’.

Phoebe Ions who adds fine gospel harmonies throughout, bringing a vocal richness to the band, offers a fulsome, moving display of soul dynamics on ‘Tearing Me Apart’ when she’s allowed to fly solo. Overall, Lucky 13 is energetic, yet held back so that not everything in the Barras artillery is deployed in every song. Obvious thought has gone into the songs in a genre where lyrics are often banal and an afterthought.

Barras’s own voice is none too shabby either, attuned well to the eleven new songs on Lucky 13, which have “featured heavily in the band’s live shows, enabling them to gel, before heading into the studio”, from the pointed wryness of ‘Heart On Your Sleeve’ to the book-end closing track ‘Devil's Done All Right By Me’.

On the way, the juddering rhythm, infectious slide lick and gospel backing vocal of ‘I Got Time’, are run over an inventive chord sequence and fine light and shade dynamics. The no-nonsense rock n roller ‘I Can't Help You Now’ hints at Barras’s jazz influences.

Considering influences, impressive part-Texas Flood, part-Jimi single-coil riffing powers the boogie of ‘Nothing To Hide’ and an inventive Hendrixesque guitar figure drives ‘Too Drunk To Care’, announced by Will Beavis’s thundering tom tom salvo.

But it’s not all buzz-saw fretboard workouts. ‘Big City Lights’ begins with a delicate Delta guitar/harp interplay, and Barras’s versatility extends to some top-class country chicken-pickin’ on the country shuffle ‘Small Town Blues’.

If his first album was a fine blueprint for tight, organised blues three-piece playing, Lucky 13 shows Kris Barras’s capability in arranging and leading an augmented to combo to fine effect.

In a recent Facebook post, Kris joked (we hope), “It’ll probably all go tits up in a year or so and I’ll be back entertaining the drunkards of Torbay with ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ but until then….I’m going to enjoy the ride.”

On this showing, there’s little danger that he’ll have to endure that personal hell.

Date added: May 26, 2016

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