Anyone familiar with Troy Redfern solely from his 2015 and 2017 releases may well think of him as a country blues rocker. Check out the video for The Line from 2017’s Dirt Blues Ritual, and you’ll see Troy in full Grand Ole Opry Regalia, complete with bootlace bow tie, black leather Stetson and an echo-heavy Gretsch hollow-body guitar. Even the heavier numbers on that set, such as his thumping, rocking take on the classic John The Revelator, are imbued with a country vibe. But after an extraordinary lockdown 2020, during which he released a slew of albums – Island in April, Deep Cuts in October and Thunder Moon in December – Troy has come of age with this full-on, hard-rocking power trio set. The press release for The Fire Cosmic still uses descriptions such as ‘rockabilly on steroids’ and ‘blues-billy boogie’, but truth to tell, the country roots are almost completely obscured by rocking slide and pounding beats, leather Stetson notwithstanding.
One might also be surprised to find out that he’s British, not deep-south Dixie at all, and the new set was recorded at Rockfield Studios in North Wales and mastered at Abbey Road. The band for this set consists of session wizards Darby Todd on drums and Dave Marks on bass and piano, with a guest spot from guitar shredder Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal from metal supergroup Sons Of Apollo.
The result is 42 minutes of traditional hard rock at its best. The format is familiar: hard-rocking heavy boogie from a trio of excellent musicians, with Redfern’s screaming slide work and gravel voice powering over the top. The first three numbers, Scorpio, Waiting For Your Love and One Way Ticket all answer to this same description, until fourth track Love And War changes things up a little, slowing the tempo, but still with that rock swagger.
The four-minute Ghosts, second featured single from the album after Waiting For Your Love, is actually a follow-up to the aforementioned The Line from 2017, following the same character in the same narrative arc. It is also the first song in which the country and western vibe resurfaces, with a rattling drum pattern and a bass line straight from Johnny Cash, which will doubtless make Troy’s existing fans feel more at home. The next track, acoustic ballad Saving Grace, is a highlight of the album; it’s another broadly country number, but with a vastly different feel – Troy overdubs two vintage resonator guitars, adds his voice, and that’s all – no drums or bass on this one. Then the next track switches back to the rock genre with a vengeance – with its steamrolling, early Van Halen backing riff, Sanctify makes it two huge highlights in a row.
Four-minute thumper On Fire is the track Bumblefoot plays on, adding a extra texture to the verses and a genuine shredding solo on his signature double-neck guitar; it sounds like he plays the first part, at least, on the fretless neck. Lay That Love Down lifts the pedal on the intensity for a while; it’s still loud and proud, but a standard major key gives it an almost poppy or AOR feel, or something approaching melodic metal.
The album ends on an anthemic finale, the nearly six minute Stone. An acoustic resonator guitar fades in, with laconic slide work coming in over the top, introducing a slow rock ballad – but then the number builds to a huge wall of sound over a singalong hook, Hey Jude style, before crashing down to a solo piano final section, à la Bohemian Rhapsody. In fact, it turns out that bassist Dave Marks is playing the same piano in the same studio Freddie Mercury recorded that number on in 1975.
It was Troy’s intention to make a ‘massive’ sounding album, and that is certainly mission accomplished. Oh, and I nearly forgot, the coolest thing of all is that Troy did the dramatic, comic-book style artwork himself: He, Darby, Dave and Bumblefoot are depicted in brightly-coloured, psychedelic sci-fi portraits reminiscent of Jim Fitzpatrick’s artwork for Thin Lizzy’s Vagabonds Of The Western World. Villain or not, the man in the black hat outguns the opposition with this crunching collection. Watch for him as he rides into the sunset.
Troy Redfern’s new album “The Fire Cosmic” is released by Red7 Records on August 6, 2021. It’s available from www.troyredfern.com
Troy is special guest on Robert Jon & The Wreck’s 11-date UK tour starting September 16th. Tickets: www.alttickets.com/robert-jon-the-wreck-tickets