I’ve recently reviewed Danny and his band playing live in Chesterfield (see Live Reviews section, 14 October). Danny has been around for over 15 years, constantly performing live and being feted by Planet Rock and Classic Rock as a rare talent. Danny’s studio albums have simply got better and better (from a strong base), last year’s “Revelation” album being hailed as the Blues Rock album of the year (Classic Rock). Means of Escape is his fifth studio album, and he is currently touring to showcase this, cue my recent review!
Revelation was heavily influenced by Danny losing his dad and one of his closest friends in the run-up to it being recorded, so it was very emotional in places. One year on, Means of Escape is aptly titled, there’s a sense of release, and perhaps now being better able to come to terms with what life throws at you – and how important music can be in this (to both practitioners and listeners). One result of this approach is that the album has a very “live” sound, with minimal retakes and overdubbing. The audio quality doesn’t suffer from this, far from it, the quality of the studio engineering, mixing and mastering being top-drawer.
The opening track Tired of Trying is a big slab full-on contemporary blues rock with raucous riffs and flamboyant licks, inspired by and dedicated to Danny’s long-time friend and mentor Walter Trout. Walter apparently told Danny to simply be himself when planning the album, and this is the result. Next up is Two Far Gone, with the whole of the “Big Band” performing a classic slow blues number in just one take.
The title track Means of Escape for me encapsulates that area where the blues merge with classic rock to produce just great music. Timeless rock rhythms and “chugging” rhythm chord progressions underpin almost Santana-like guitar licks, it’s great stuff! Nine Lives is another slower traditional four-bar Texas blues track with a classic riff and great Hammond solo, it’s a great favourite live.
Skin and Bone by contrast is stripped back to Danny’s voice and acoustic guitar as he expresses how much he misses his father. Another emotionally draining, smouldering epic is Where The River Ends, a ballad soaked in the Hammond Organ and with searing guitar and raw vocals that give you goose-bumps. This is a singer putting heart and soul into a tender support for an old friend who had lost his daughter – pure emotion, and Danny’s voice has never sounded stronger.
Warning Signs (In Her Eyes) is another old-time four-bar blues number that chugs satisfyingly with slide guitar overlaying a meaty rhythm and featuring a horn section, it’s a tribute to another of Danny’s all-time heroes, Gary Moore. Hurting Time is another slide-driven number, actually Danny’s first ever effort at slide guitar – not bad at all! It also confirms what a fine unit the whole band is, whether as a four-piece or the whole Big Band. Paul Mallatratt on bass and Dave Raeburn on drums are a rock-solid rhythm section and particular mention must be made for Stevie Watts on keyboards, both electric piano and his wonderful Hammond organ.
The closing track Mya is a beautiful slow instrumental, introduced with the Hammond before a heart-achingly gripping guitar solo takes over. It’s wonderful playing, and wonderful song-writing, from someone who lives and breathes contemporary blues from his fingers, heart, soul, down to his toes. A great way to close a simply great album.