I have to say at the outset: This is a damn fine album! Now or Nowhere is the third album from Montreal’s The Damn Truth – a band that in many ways has been hiding in plain sight for the last nine years, slowly bubbling up from the underground onto the radar of a wider audience.
The foursome comprise Lee-La Baum (lead vocals, guitar, tambourine); Tom Shemer (Guitars, keys); Py Letterlier (bass); Dave Traina (drums). All four sing on the album, but it is Lee-La’s powerhouse larynx that leads from the front, sounding like Blues Pills’ Elin Larsson, Heart’s Anne Wilson, Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard and Pat Benatar in turn – tender, lambasting, howling, always in command, this is a woman with a truly great voice!
The album will be released by Spectra Musique/Sony Music on Friday May 7th, but you might well have already heard their first single This Is Who We Are Now. It’s been out since mid March and has attracted rave reviews from a host of critics, notably the runaway winner of “track of the week” on the Classic Rock magazine website Louder Sounds; and getting extended air-play on Planet Rock and others.
Now Or Nowhere chronicles the band as they navigate life, love, and everything else in a world gone seemingly upside down and sideways during the past year. It has nine tracks of great quality, classic hard rock with lots of bluesy, melodic edges, lots of variety in pace, mood, style, an altogether hugely entertaining way to spend 40 minutes!
Six of the tracks were produced by legendary Grammy Award winning Bob Rock (Metallica, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, The Cult, The Offspring). Unable to finish the album with Bob because of COVID-19 restrictions, the band recorded the remaining three songs with help from Juno Award-winning producer Jean Massicotte (Patrick Watson, The Damn Truth) who mixed “Everything Fades”; and the rest of the mixing was done by Vance Powell (Jack White, Chris Stapleton), Nick DiDia (Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against The Machine), and Mike Plotnikoff (Van Halen, Cranberries, Three Days Grace). So there are three Grammy Award winners on this album! (Bob Rock, Vance Powell and Nick DiDia).
The album opens with the single This Is Who We Are Now, is a song of empowerment and inspiration, very reminiscent of Heart in terms of pace, hard rock riffing, an anthemic call-to-arms as Lee really gets stuck in! A ‘heart-stopping’ (sorry!) ratchetting-up of the pace to the frantic conclusion creates pretty much the perfect opening track for any album, a real statement of intent!
Tomorrow comes in with a great choppy guitar sound followed by a whopping riff! Reminds me of Pat Benatar, or Starship, in its construction, creating the space for Lee to harangue her audience – nicely mind – very tuneful choruses punctuating it. Lots to pick up on, driving bass, pounding drums, layers of guitar work and again that voice….catch it in a live venue near you ASAP!
Only Love has some lovely jingle-jangle ‘Rickenbacker’ guitar at the start, Bryan Adams could have written – and sung – this, it’s fantastically, hugely radio-friendly, a perfect mix of up-beat, “happy to be alive” lyrics and vibe, bouncy beat, a beautifully clean sound, massively melodic, and a wonderful soaring solo towards the end. Phoargh, it simply has to be the ‘Single for the Summer’!
Lonely has a strong vibe of Alabama Shakes about the sheer sassiness of it. It starts and finishes softly, but in between an interesting staccato pace drives the song along before Lee introduces another fantastic guitar solo by way of a sustained out-and-out howl!
Everything Fades is pure ballad, lovely clean finger-picking guitar work underscoring a swooping, smooth vocal. As a band, they don’t leave anything behind on the studio floor when cutting these tracks, it’s very clean, powerful, beautifully rounded, melodic stuff. An altogether classy composition, it illustrates the strength of these guys as song-writing unit.
The Fire is a slower, pounding bluesy number not unlike Blues Pills, but wow what a vocal performance from Lee! She wrings every shred of emotion out of these lyrics, Janis Joplin and Joanna Connor would be seriously proud of this number. It’s quite a sparse arrangement, which makes Lee’s vocals and the short but sweet guitar solo really cut through the airwaves. Great, great track!
There’s then hardly any pause before Lee howls the intro to Look Innocent, another slow, bluesy – but extremely full on – poignant tale of lost love. She’s up there with Brittany Howard’s intensity of emotion on this seething 60’s drenched retro blues rock track. The bass and drums rumble around while voice and guitar scream in tandem, you’ve really been through the ringer by the time this draws to a close!
Full On You then veers more back into Heart territory with a whopper of a riff followed by some wonderful guitar work, Tom Shemer is a damn fine player! Shot ‘Em reminds me of Grace Slick and Starship, with that dense rock sound that’s punctuated by a soaring voice and reverberating guitar. By turns balladic, gentle, then in-yer-face and anthemic, it’s a show finale if ever there was one, the last minute or so featuring everyone at the top of their form………and breathe!
The Damn Truth have extensively toured Europe and the United States, opened tours for ZZ Top (and partied with Billy Gibbons in his pyjamas), the Sheepdogs, Styx, and Rival Sons, sold out the legendary Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles, sold out the Corona Theatre in their hometown of Montreal, and even had one of their videos featured on the official Janis Joplin Facebook page. It’s a culmination of a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and sheer hard work paying and playing their dues that’s got them to this point and the culmination that is Now or Nowhere. And huge credit has to be given here to Bob Rock, Jean Massicote, Vance, Nick and Mike – the overall production and sound-mix is sumptuous, just the way I like it!
Quite simply, an amazing rocky, melodic album, filled out in all the right spaces. There’s lots of 60’s specials, massive anthems, 70’s beefiness, 80’s power melodies…. I can’t believe I’ve never heard these guys before, I’m now going to have to delve into their past, spend some dosh, and look forward to some UK live dates…pleez! In the mean time, they’ve done sterling work online through TikTok videos, gathering a whole new fan base through their imaginative cover-song videos and by opening their stream to fans’ requests. The future beckons….
The Damn Truth’s new album “Now or Nowhere” is released by Spectra Musique/Sony Music on May 7th via www.thedamntruth.com