Sunday 17 January 2016

With Lions - Fast Luck

Article by KevW

It could be assumed that the title of With Lions' new album is a slightly cheeky (or perhaps crude) spoonerism, but that's not the case. When Woody Ranere was on a trip to Panama he picked up a bottle of a "spiritual elixir" called Suerte Rapida, which is apparently well known in South America as a way to achieve "fast luck" after drinking, and the name of the record was drawn from there. For their first album since 2012, the duo of Ranere and Christian Celaya are joined by Josh Thomas, a rising star of the Baltimore music scene, as well as guest vocalist Lee Mo, for a set of songs that tackle recent events by bringing together a myriad of musical styles. Their Facebook page states "Genre: All of them." for good reason...

This is instantly evident, as first track 'Rundown (The Fire)' takes early blues guitar, a trip-hop beat, vocals that switch from a near rap to disjointed soul, and an intricate but powerful blend of many sounds to form a striking collage. Bigger beats and grinding guitars and electronic effects come together on 'No Devil' which is another twisted and thunderous update on blues and soul but brings in a gospel flavour, and really 'Fast Luck' doesn't let up until the very end. It's almost a new take on the Bristol scene of the '90s, but without the ambient pieces; this is very full-on. The hard riff to 'Down We Go' brings to mind Led Zeppelin, something that's perhaps acknowledged with the "been a long time" lyrics borrowed from the rock legends' song 'Rock and Roll'. The excellent 'Better Run' also makes great use of a dirty riff, as does the deep groove of 'Fight Back'.

There's extra potent R&B on the stomping 'Can't Hold Me', but as usual it's not as simple as that, with alt-rock grit and even the slight hint of reggae/ragga at some points. That grit applies lyrically too, and that's also prevalent throughout the entire album, as dark themes of running and hiding, chasing, not backing down, blood and the devil pepper these songs as though they're inhabiting an apocalyptic world where there's little emotion but fear and panic, so the only other option is to be defiant. The fusion of hip-hop and rock is given an impressive and robust outing on 'Hands Up', but in With Lions' own style. The lightest tone we get comes on 'Pretty Girl' where a classic acoustic blues guitar is joined by a soulful vocal and rattlesnake percussion, with some slide guitar being introduced for added atmosphere.

The experimenting doesn't stop, and 'Jitterbug (Shake It)' takes funk and soul and the anything goes approach of acts like The Freestylers to create a curious but effective hybrid that defies easy categorisation, while 'Make You Feel' has a spectacular intro before the familiar (but never repetitive) cross-pollination of genres takes over. 'Lost Control' is another fine example of how With Lions take gospel and add layer upon layer of sound to make the devil's music. They bow out with the more expansive and atmospheric 'Evil Exists (A Man)' which hauls the blues up to date with a rare force. 'Fast Luck' is inventive, powerful and totally insatiable - whatever was in that elixir seems to have done the trick.

With Lions' website

Buy: 'Fast Luck'

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