Well! I’m mortified! As an (almost) life-long rock fan, how I’ve missed out on this seminal blues-rock band completely floors me! They’ve been around since 1965 and have been touring continuously since then, making them one of the longest running bands in existence.
In the mid 60s, the British Blues Explosion developed out of the R&B boom that was the launchpad for the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Yardbirds. The two foremost bands were John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (featuring a young Eric Clapton) and Savoy Brown’s Blues Band featuring Kim Simmonds, and together with Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull, Chick Shack and Ten Years After, they were known as the “Big Six” blues bands. As one of the pioneers of the new blues movement, Savoy Brown gave a platform to emerging bands in other areas of the UK, and then to others who would become global stars. The list includes Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, ZZ Top, the Doobie Brothers to name but a few, not to mention former members of the band who went on to join hugely well-known bands including King Crimson, F;leetwood Mac, Black Sabbath, the Kinks and UFO. And three of them – Lonesome Dave Peverett, Roger Earl, and Tony Stevens, went on to become the founding members of the multi-platinum act Foghat. Not a bad heritage!!
Guitarist and singer Kim Simmonds has been the group’s guiding hand from their formation in London through to the band’s newest effort, their forty-first album Ain’t Done Yet to be released August 28, 2020. The new album follows their critically acclaimed 2019 album, City Night. Witchy Feelin’, the band’s 2017 album, reached #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart, echoing their 70’s successes when their albums Looking In and Hellbound Train, featured high in the Billboard Top Forty charts.
Energetic blues has been the calling card of the band from the beginning, and to me that’s what makes the band stand out and be so appealing to mainstream rock fans. Blues can quite often (to my mind) sound “a bit thin” to rock-fans’ ears, despite the quality of the musicianship, but Savoy Brown have a denser, definitively rocky band sound that does the business for me, almost grungy at times. It puts me in mind of Crazy Horse, Neil Young’s superlative backing band (who I think have featured in moreorless all NYs greatest moments).
A perfect example of this is the album’s opener, All Gone Wrong. A dirty chugger of a riff that you’d swear was ZZ Top, backed by metronomic bass and drums. Overlaid with some sweet bluesy solos, it’s simple stuff but absolutely, throbbingly, classic. You know straight away what you’re in for!
Next up is The Devils Highway, a pacey, spacey tale, could be Johnny Cash singing. Kim’s voice doesn’t seem to age much and his blues licks are just beautiful. The tone and timbre that Kim uses on many of these tracks shows a master at work, and also highlights how he has approached this album. Ain’t Done Yet was recorded at Showplace Studios, Dover, New Jersey, which has a rich history of of producing great blues-rock. It is also the sixth album where Kim has worked as producer with Ben Elliott, the studio owner and engineer, using a multi-layered approach to the guitar parts, aiming to find new and progressive ways to create blues-based rock music, infused with spirit and vitality, plus some serious guitar chops. Sadly, Ben died shortly after the album was made, so Kim has dedicated Ain’t Done Yet to Ben, and it will be the last album produced at Showplace Studios.
The third track, Rain On The Rise, is a cajun-like, bouncy, song that reminds me of JJ Cale, and that figures when you think of JJ’s class and Eric Clapton’s obvious regard for his songwriting – these greats all share the same sense of style and magic. Kim also aimed to emphasise song content on this album, with increased scope for the band as a whole to improvise – and fair play to long-running bandmates Pat DeSalvo and Garnet Grimm, they intuitively play as a single unit. Another similar cajun-based track is Living In Louisiana, where Simmonds has lived since 1980. This hasn’t stopped him writing songs like Jaguar Car and Soho Girl though! The latter in particular has another great chunky, meaty riff and some lovely licks on top. This where Zep, Sabbath, Stray all learned their lines!
One of the real stand-outs on this album is “I Feel Like A Gypsy, which has flavours of Santana, Mark Knoppfler, and JJ Cale again. The point is it’s simple but gorgeous, with exquisite guitar work over a floaty rhythm. It washes over you, soaks through you. Wonderful…
The album’s closer is Crying Guitar, which again is simple but stunning. Hints of Eric Clapton, Mark Knoppfler, how this guy isn’t a household name in the Stellar category, and how I’d never heard of him before, is ridiculous!
The album is their second to be released on California-based Quarto Valley Records. Bruce Quarto, QVR founder and CEO said, “Quarto Valley Records is honored to continue working with Savoy Brown on Ain’t Done Yet, it’s already one of my all-time favorites. Everyone who hears it will immediately agree that Savoy Brown ain’t nowhere near done yet.”
Savoy Brown will support the release of Ain’t Done Yet with a late summer tour that extends through 2021. I Haven’t seen any official videos from the new album released as yet, but here’s a taste of the band live in the US from a year ago
As I said earlier, energetic blues has been the calling card of the band from the beginning, but Simmonds infuses the 10 tracks on Ain’t Done Yet with spirit and vitality in a variety of styles and roots sounds that transcend the blues-rock idiom with universal appeal. I feel like I’ve just listened to some amazing Various Artists’ compilation called “Best of the Blues” featuring many, many greats, and I have to tell myself that these guys virtually wrote the book that many others have followed. Savoy Brown and Kim Simmonds have a body of work that is matched by only very few musical artists and, as they continue to tour the world in support of Ain’t Done Yet, young and old alike in the family of music will find inspiration in their timeless music, classic style, and ageless performances.