Savage Folk and Primitive Blues
Cat Stevens meets Talking Heads and Flaming Lips at the Blues Rock gig.
I've always liked David Griffith's songwriting and performing whenever he is able to come down from the mountains to perform at our Concerts. So I eagerly awaited the chance to review his new CD. He goes under the pseudonym Saucepan Bach and the album is titled 'Savage Folk & Primitive Blues'. A professionally, though simply done CD cover and case belie the quality of the material within, yet adds to the mystique of the artist (James Bridle, our past President was the graphic designer). Once you realise that David has artists of the standard of Bob Spencer (Of Angels fame) you start to get an idea that this is a package to be taken very seriously indeed.
Even from the first native drum beats and gong of 'Medicine Woman' you sense the atmosphere of an extremely talented writer and performer. The sound mix is also superb and stunning, with a great combination of acoustic and bass guitar. If you could image Cat Stevens having a laid back blues bent then you will get an idea of David's unique, yet brilliant vocal style, which really cuts through. The song itself has a top hook line, with an early Fleetwood Mac tone, while the backing female vocals are fantastic, adding a certain ambience. The sax solos are nothing short of stunning, with an Arabic feel. Great song!
'Black Dog Mood' starts off with some bluesy acoustic riffs behind some skiffle type drums, and then the vocals floor you with their tone and emotion. The female backing singer again does a superb job giving the song a Black Sorrows feel. Great New Orleans' guitar leads over a blues/jazz tinged background - reminded me in part of 'Black Velvet' in its tones. As usual with David's material it had great hooks.
Great rocking acoustic guitar started 'Can This Be Love', whose vocal's had a real tonal edge to them - fantastic! Once again brilliant backing vocals and impressive lead breaks. The hook chorus definitely embeds itself in the brain, while the driving feel powers the song along. The lighter parts of the song added that special touch, while the horns were a genius' thoughts.
'Nota Bene' started with a simple acoustic guitar and a slight calypso feel. A real contrast to the last song, though with the same stunning vocals from David and the backing singer. Good dymanics and impressive changes add that something to the song. I really liked the middle eight.
David uses interesting vocal phrasings over acoustic guitar at the beginning of 'Gaze In Your Eyes', then the drums kick in with a full tilt calypso feel a la 'Fly Down To Rio' feel. A South American style love song? The heavy changes added that extra interest, with use of great dynamics. I really love David's lyrics and wish he'd put them on the CD's cover: "I'm not Florence Nightingale, Is this a surprise? But I will burn a candle for you." The Aquarius ending demonstrating David's sense of fun.
A deep bass under insistent drums, followed by David's prowling, growling vocals makes one salivate for the sound of 'Hunger'. Reminds me in part of some of Chain's 80's material (Child of the Street). I love the lead riffs and those great backing vocals. Great bass/drums solo. Fantastic song once again.
One of my favourite songs, even before I had heard the CD, was 'Volcano Burning' with it's details of a raw, burning, emotional wound. The song is sung with a heartfelt feel and passionate tone. A slight calypso edge as well. Great lyrics once again: "The sky ain't blue, Every colour but that." Bloody great, especially as it stays haunting your thoughts for quite a time after you hear it.
'Cry On My Heart' has a real 'Albatross' feel to it, with the song soaring and swooping like a bird on the glide, and the tall masts of a lone sailing ship on a high breeze. The vocal harmonies were fantastic.
The next song really grows on you as it has a different lyric bent, a skiffle like rhythm, yet is country with jazz tinges. Once you feel comfortable with that the bass kicks in on the second verse, and I had a feeling of Freddy Fender meeting the blues. Then the superb slide adds the spice to the next verse, continuing the great buildup. Though it is still laid back, but there is a powerful undercurrent carrying the listener forward. Then the piece de resistance a reed organ comes in the last verse culminating in one of the best musical builds I've yet heard in a song. Wow! Stunning stuff!
'Hick It Up' is rock'n'roll at it's best, especially the rolling down under bass. Nick Lowe would have loved this. I especially like the animal growling 'wah wah' vocals. Top backing vocals once again. If Cat Stevens had rocked this is how he would have done it.
The light drums, acoustic guitar, and gravelly vocals of the start of 'Sing Your Name' had me thinking of Waylon Jennings, till the Angle's like fuzz guitar, bass, and drums kicked in. Fan-bloody-tastic! A real surprise. Loved that sweet clean slide guitar cutting over top of the mix. The song had a anguished ache of loneliness and Baby Animals' influences. Great work!
I love the rhythmic feel of 'Such Is Man'. The South American drum beats behind the rock drumming and the deep heavy bass was almost demon driven. Savage folk and primitive blues push this with the energy of a Voodoo priest incanting strange philosophies. You can almost hear the tribal screams, which is echoed in the grunting animalistic leads at the song's end, like a wild beast screaming in the jungles of the mind. You might say I really like this song.
From the starting countdown we come into a world of 70's arena style rock in the song 'Please Be Real'. Loud, brash and dynamic, there are touches of Cheap Trick and Jethro Tull in the unleashing of this one.
'Walk The Precipice' has a lighter tone, but the bass drives you to the cliffs of emotion. I have that sense of Chain once again, but that's probably David's superb vocals and the background blues feel.
Well after listening to this album probably twenty times so far, and playing to all my mates, I can honestly say this is one of the best albums I've heard in the Society. If you like a Cat Steven's style of vocal delivery, with a blues base, then you are a bloody idiot if you don't go out and buy this album. Hopefully David will once again grace our stages and he might bring along a few copies of the album, as Molly Meldrum would say "Do yourself a favour....." You might guess which album I'd vote album of the year for 1998, then again there were so many great albums it might be worthwhile if I listen to them all again!
written by Gavin Fitzgerald for "The Songsmith" monthly magazine, Sydney, Australia.
Medicine Woman 4:210:00 / 4:21
Black Dog Mood 5:310:00 / 5:31
Can this be love 3:300:00 / 3:30
Nota Bene 2:280:00 / 2:28
Gaze in your eyes 3:260:00 / 3:26
Hunger 4:310:00 / 4:31
Volcano Burning 2:260:00 / 2:26
Cry on my heart 4:010:00 / 4:01
Honour thy folks 3:150:00 / 3:15
Hick it up 3:150:00 / 3:15
Sing your name 3:210:00 / 3:21
Please be real 2:180:00 / 2:18
Walk the precipice 2:360:00 / 2:36