January 28, 2024

The jams are kicked out again with the pulverising What’s A Man Supposed To Do, while possibly the highlight of the whole album comes in the shape of the exceptional Hawk Men Come, a mini epic with huge, fist-pumping choruses and riffs that roll by like black cloud thunder…

Sons Of Liberty (whose third album this is) are described as ‘hard Southern Rock’, and while there is nothing technically misleading about that statement, there is one small wrinkle in one’s expectations: while the band are indeed from the South, it’s actually Avon as opposed to Alabama, since the band in fact hail from Bristol in the South West of England. Not that you’d know it to listen to this album, mind you, as these guys are as authentic as you could possibly get short of hailing from Florida or Texas and being on first name terms with Lynyrd Skynyrd. What we have here is a cracking blast through eleven tracks of Stetson-tipping rock and roll, with just that perfect Southern blend of defiance, partying and the odd bit of soulful vulnerability – in short, just about everything you’d want from a textbook Southern album.

Mind you, that Southern label, while pretty accurate, is also a limited one, as there’s much here that edges way outside of that particular envelope, and none more so than the opener Time To Fly, which is both a clear highlight and also just about the heaviest thing on here. Riding in on a riff which doffs its cap brilliantly to Black Sabbath’s Megalomania, this is as close to flat out heavy metal as it is to Sweet Home Alabama or There Goes Another Love Song. It’s an absolute corker of an opener, and it’s probably fair to say that if this one doesn’t grab you by the lapels right off the bat, this band aren’t going to be for you. The rest of us, on the other hand, are wide eyed and ready to rock, saying ‘Hold my beer, I’m going in!’ Light The Fuse comes up next, another hard as nails rocker which doesn’t need any Southern Rock tropes to make its point, coming across like a distant cousin of classic Montrose and keeping the energy levels way up there. The Southern angle comes much more closely into view next up, however, with Turn This Tide upping the soulful reflection side of things with a big epic-sounding ‘power ballad’, if such a description can be used to describe this sort of slow-burning beast. It’s where they get their Tuesday’s Gone / Southern Man mojo working, and it sounds as authentically Southern as a double-barrelled handgun and a bible. That’s three tracks in, three different sides of the band, and three absolute belters. By this point, I’m already sold, but there’s plenty more excellent stuff coming up.

Photo: Red Images Photography

The fourth track Tertulia Time (there will be words that start with other letters soon, honest!) is much more of a good time anthem, all whisky and rock and roll, and party every day – not exactly deep and meaningful, but certainly doing what it says on the tin of tobacco and bourbon. I confess I had to look up the meaning of the title, and found a ‘tertulia’ defined surprisingly as ‘a social gathering with literary or artistic overtones, especially in Iberia or in Spanish America’ – it certainly seems more ‘Tequila’ than ‘Tertulia’ from that description, but hey, as someone once said, ‘ain’t nothing but a literary and erudite house party’! Walk With You, another slightly slower and more soul-soaked exercise, takes things up another notch with some absolutely sublime Southern Rock guitar work right out of chapter one of the Skynyrd Playbook, and paying absolutely perfect homage to the masters. The jams are kicked out again with the pulverising What’s A Man Supposed To Do, while possibly the highlight of the whole album comes in the shape of the exceptional Hawk Men Come, a mini epic with huge, fist-pumping choruses and riffs that roll by like black cloud thunder. I’m still not too sure of the meaning of it, or what if any relevance to the comic-book Hawk Men may be, but dammit if that isn’t entirely unimportant as I’m bellowing along with the chorus for the umpteenth time. This is a proper new take on the hoary old Southern template, close enough to be related yet different enough to be brand new, and it’s brilliant stuff. Love What You Got, meanwhile, takes Stephen Stills’ Love The One You’re With and updates it nicely for the new millennium. There’s hardly a black mark to be found to this point, with a run of eight very, very fine tracks.

If there’s a criticism at all here, it is that there is a slight tail off at the end of the album, with the final few songs going over similar ground to the first half of the album but with slightly diminishing returns – but then again that is most likely a result of the sheer quality of the earlier tracks – with songs as good as Time To Fly, Turn This Tide, Walk With You and Hawk Men Come, any similarity is going to find it hard to escape the ‘son of…’ tag. Taken in isolation, the final two tracks here, I’ve Got The Sky and Well’s Run Dry, go through all the right moves and are fine standalone tracks.

I have to admit that this album was my introduction to the ‘Southern England Rock’ of Sons Of Liberty, and as such I cannot compare this against the earlier albums, or new vocalist Russ Grimmett against his predecessor, but I can say that the vocals here are absolutely top drawer, and that those first two albums would have to go some to beat this. It’s fresh, it’s hard, it’s heavy, and it’s still just the right amount of ‘Southern By The Grace Of God’. Sons Of Liberty are a tremendous band, there’s absolutely no denying it, and it certainly sounds as if some of these tracks will have ‘live classic’ stamped on them from the moment they bed into their set. Good stuff indeed!