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Southern Rock

Warren Haynes – Ashes & Dust (feat. Railroad Earth) [Album Review]

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Warren Haynes – Ashes & Dust (feat. Railroad Earth) [Album Review]

If you’re at all familiar with the Allman Brother’s Band or Gov’t Mule, then you’ll no doubt be aware of Warren Haynes and his incredibly smooth vocals and guitar playing that is simply out-of-this-world. Calling him an exceptional musician would be an understatement and an insult. There are few as masterful as Haynes and his musical prowess comes across clearly in his third solo album Ashes & Dust.

Full of recordings that are instant classics, Ashes & Dust is a cornucopia of Blues, Folk, Country, and Rock music, I have a sneaking suspicion that you’re going to love this album, I know I do!

Is It Me Or You eases you into the album. It is absolutely beautiful and while I’m not always a fan of the Banjo, it has been recorded and mixed masterfully. The string element is equally as compelling and the rhythm just makes you move to the groove subconsciously. You’ll most certainly be head-bopping and toe-tapping along to this song. 

Coal Tattoo is blues 101 and is arguably the best song on the album. Sensational! 

Blue Maiden’s Tale is more Folk/Country-based when compared to the preceding songs. That isn’t a bad thing, however, as Blue Maiden’s Tale fits in perfectly to the album and the interweaving tempos that may initially sound a little disjointed, really come together in a very enjoyable piece of music. 

Company Man is a fantastic meat and potatoes Country Rock song. It’s perfect for a sing-along and is another great head-bopping and toe-tapping song. 

New Year’s Eve is a little pedestrian and campy for my liking, but Haynes performs it beautifully nonetheless. 

Stranded In Self-Pity is a solid blues track that I like to close my eyes to as I move to the groove. 

Glory Road is a fantastic tune, but the instrumental opening is too long for the style of song in my opinion. Otherwise, it’s spectacular! As I listen to it, I’d love to hear Rod Stewart cover it as I feel it would also suit his style of vocal perfectly. 

Gold Dust Woman (feat. Grace Potter) is a killer Fleetwood Mac song and this cover is exceptional. Could it be better than the original? Well, it’s certainly on par with it. Grace Potter is a perfect addition to the song but I’d argue that Fleetwood Mac nailed the intermingling duet vocals a little better than Haynes and Potter did here.

Beat Down The Dust is nothing to write home about, but a great song nonetheless.

Wanderlust is simply gorgeous and that guitar tracking is exquisite. 

Spots Of Time has an incredible drum track with a soundstage that is thoroughly immersive. 

Hallelujah Boulevard is beautiful, but as with Glory Road, I feel as though the introduction is too long, ultimately taking the focus away from the song itself. A shame considering just how stunning it is. 

Word On The Wind is a sensational closing track with a guitar solo, and overall rhythm, that I simply adore. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to listen to Word On The Wind again. Forget playing it on repeat, however, for it is worth going back to Is It Me Or You in order to listen to this entire masterpiece again.

Sonically, the entire recording, mix, and mastering is nothing short of perfection and will really push your audio playback system to its limits. Sensational! 

Overall, Ashes & Dust is absolutely flawless and is one of the best blues-based albums I’ve ever heard. When I listen to an album this good, I am reminded of why I adore music as much as I do and that the gift of music from a master musician, such as Haynes, to the listener, is priceless. 

Although, if you’d like to put a price on it and own a copy for yourself, Ashes & Dust is available on Vinyl, CD, or the iTunes Store

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Rex Brown – Smoke On This... (Album Review)

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Rex Brown – Smoke On This... (Album Review)

You may know him as the bassist from Pantera and Down, but despite his Heavy Metal roots, Brown has delivered an exceptional solo debut filled with killer blues-based hard rock tunes.

Listening to Smoke On This… gives me the impression of an album that while being unique is also influenced at times by Pantera's Cowboys From Hell and the sound signature Slash used for his solo album and further collaborations with Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators. That isn't to say plagiarism of any sort has occurred, but if you appreciate the aforementioned artists, you will thoroughly enjoy this album.

Sonically, the album is nicely mixed and mastered, despite pushing distorted elements to their limit. The one problem I have come across is on Johnny Kelly's drum track whereby the crunching of the cymbals is jarring on the senses. I would have preferred a slightly more open sound, thereby allowing the cymbals space in the soundstage to breathe and shimmer. It would be interesting to see if this same issue is prevalent on the vinyl release, or if due to the restricted vinyl mastering process, this distortion has been limited as the dynamic range most likely wouldn’t be as compressed.

Speaking of vinyl, that cover art is awesome and would look fantastic. I adore black and white photography and while it won't work with all album covers, it works perfectly in this instance as it captures the attitude of both the artist and recording.

Lone Rider gets the album off to an energetic start. The distracting element, however, is the aforementioned crunching cymbals. Otherwise, it’s an incredible song to commence the album with.

Crossing Lines has a great rhythm, but again the shrill sound of the cymbals are a little too forward in the mix and I feel it takes away from an otherwise solid tune.

Buried Alive has an incredible guitar twang introduction that builds into a blues-based rock tune that any musician would be proud of. Brown’s vocal presentation, not only on this track but across the entire album, is exceptional and feels perfectly suited to the associated musicality.

Train Song is amazing! Best song on the album without a doubt. Yes, I can hear the influence of Cowboys From Hell, but I love that song too. I don't know about you, but I enjoy music that offers similarities but has been completely restructured to present something new and evolutionary.

Get Yourself Alright has a mellon collie blues-rock sound. It is an impressive mix and offers incredible depth, reminding me of the work Julian Lennon did with his exceptional Photograph Smile album. Get Yourself Alright pushes the genre limits and is anything but another mere rock tune.

Fault Line is a lovely soft rock tune. Every musical element is perfectly positioned and I simply adore the interweaving vocal along with the gorgeous piano outro.

What Comes Around... is a little campy, especially in the chorus. However, if we call it a B-side, it’s a valued addition to the record.

Grace, while suiting the album, is a classic B-side.

So Into You is a solid rock song. Despite that, the overlapping lead and rhythm guitar confuses the senses as I’m unsure of which groove to connect with.

Best Of Me is a beautiful song! From the elegant beginning to the riff-driven chorus, to the mellow verse; every aspect of this song is perfect. While it may not suit everyone, the musical shifts are incredible and at no time does the song feel disjointed.

One Of These Days is a killer final track. It compels me to listen to the album again and hope that Brown will not only have success with this debut solo release but will continue to record new music.

Overall, Smoke On This... is an exceptional album and while a debut solo performance for Brown, this is one example that showcases how decades of experience can have a profound effect on one’s musicality.

I’m so enamoured by this release that I'm going to order a copy on vinyl; specifically, the limited edition clear version that includes the CD. I like it when vinyl records are shipped with a CD. It is simply a value-added proposition for the consumer.

Smoke On This... is also available as a standalone Vinyl release. Alternatively, you can purchase the album on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, the album can also be heard on Spotify and Apple Music.

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