February 14, 2023

Robert Jon & the Wreck are part of the new generation of blues rock artists sweeping the scene, and on a cold dark night in Sheffield a large and enthusiastic crowd was treated to some warm sunshine, courtesy of this Southern Californian quintet!

First up though were another US-based outfit, Baywater Call. A blues duo very much in the same mould as When Rivers Meet, they played a varied set and went down well with the crowd before promising to be back in the Autumn with their full band.

Robert Jon Burrison and the rest of the Wreck hit the stage very much as they meant to continue, opening with Pain No More, featuring a mean riff and some brilliant slide work from Henry James Schneekluth, the band’s lead guitarist. Imagine someone looking like a cross between Phil Lynott and Jimi Hendrix and sounding passably like the latter – guitar fans know they’re in for a treat!

The band in full flow

Next up is Do You Remember – a huge beat, twin lead guitars on the intro, a liquid solo from Henry, these guys really do classic southern rock! Come at Me features some nicely choppy, staccato guitar work before building to a big climax and morphing into a recent single She’s a Fighter. It’s classy good-time rock’n’roll, short, sharp and oh so sweet. The southern tempo continues with Ride Into The Light, big echoes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, there’s some lovely keys on this before a big drums intro, more guitar duelling and an express train riff that is the backbone to Are You Waiting For Your Man. It’s the best track yet, an upbeat, pacey, full of energy and sheer unrestrained enthusiasm. It’s fair to say these guys simply love playing live!

Rescue Train follows, opening with a nicely bubbling bassline, a bluesy intro, sumptuous organ. It’s bar-room blues rock at its finest, complete with the first of several slices of genuine honky tonk piano. All topped off with a sublimely liquid slide solo.

Henry James giving it his all

When I Die brings the tone down for a while, a slower piano-led number with almost a “Riders in the Storm” vibe from keys, cymbals, snare drums, bass. But then in comes a monster riff, more honky tonk – Robert introduces this song as being off their very first album  but “we’ve taken lots of liberties with the original!” – another confirmation of their love of working and re-working in a live format.

After a keys solo, we’re into Who Can You Love. RJ’s voice is simultaneously smooth and gravelly, the quintessential southern rock drawl. He’s just born for it, you get the feeling he can write these in his sleep then let guitarist Henry loose on it. I bet rehearsal time is fun!

Gold is a new to me, a slow bluesy ballad on which RJ gives his absolute all vocally. It‘s followed by perhaps their biggest recent single Oh Miss Carolina, this is a huge anthem that the crowd all know and love, joyously belting out the chorus. Shine A Light On Me Brother follows, keeping the tempo cooking by being almost a three-chord pub-rock number, pacey, upbeat, it’s great stuff.

The last track of the main set is introduced with more twin guitars, a stanza or two from Jessica confirming the band pays homage to the Allman Brothers in Cold Night. This has got extensions to the extensions, it’s a massive, massive track with powerhouse drums (Andrew Espantman) and booming bass (Warren Murrel) driving through the extended sections…I lost count after six separate guitar solos!

With the crowd demanding more, the band encore with an intriguing take on Last Light on the Highway Parts 1 and 2 from their 2020 album. The studio version of Part 1 is a short, gentle acoustic instrumental, but here Henry really ramps it up Hendrix-style with shafts of feedback before the band comes in for Part 2 – another extended suitably climactic track to leave the crowd very happy. RJ signs off, saying “Sheffield, it’s been a honour!”  – and above all, great fun!   

The band’s latest single, out now