I’m not sure which is the bigger surprise – the fact that this Jake Chisholm is the same front man from Jake & The Blue Midnights or that this release is one of the latest from deeply-respected blues label, Electro-Fi Records. Impresario Andrew Galloway’s label has long specialized in traditional, post-war blues but – as the t-shirt reads: “with a foot in the future.” Hence, Galloway’s own vast musical interests are coming to the surface as he adds newfound success stories like Harrison Kennedy and Blackburn to his esteemed catalogue. In other words, Chisholm’s progressive release is a good fit. Likewise, Chisholm has undergone a personal renaissance, moving from horn-fueled swing crooner to bona fide soul-rocker on a mission.

Beginning with “Muddy Water” – a title setting you up for surprise – you’re instantly met with ‘70s-era power bass and that distinct Thin Lizzy sound of dual lead guitars linked in powerful, harmonic tandem. Whaaa...? Jake’s powerful rock vocal matches this mix which, with a dash of reverb, reveals nothing of his comparably big band past. The title track continues this rock barrage with Ian Mckeown’s sturdy backbeat and a repetitive guitar hook, soon joined by Darcy Yates’ pulsing bass and second guitar. Clearly a crowd-directed rally cry, the catchy chorus is soon augmented by dueling guitars which close the show. All that’s missing is the live audience. “Next Time” reveals a more heartfelt vocal as these dangerous guitars continue to weave their spell. Who are these players? Ariel Bender and Gary Moore? No – guitars supplied are Chisholm’s own and those of bandmate Jimmy Bowskill. Lizzy is again resurrected with the twin guitar attack of “Don’t Let Me Drown” – all throbbing bass, ringing guitars and gut-wrenching vocal. The distinctive guitars behind “Trouble Please Be Me” lend a slightly foreboding feel behind Chisholm’s animated vocal as the songs detours slightly with some electronic warbling and single note leads before returning to full-on stalk, co-writer Ewan Currie adding background vocals and guitar for added clout. Paul Reddick contributes a mysterious element with his patented harp sound to “She’s Just Playin’” as the band sits back slightly, Chisholm’s vocal pleading somewhat. Cue the now-familiar Lizzy guitars for “I Can’t Get By” as Chisholm reveals the need to be constantly high, the band present but not entirely accounted for in this bluesy jam. “Catching Up On Love” is pure Lizzy power, suggesting a somewhat limited range in Chisholm’s approach, yet rewarding all the same. He’s got more than sufficient vocal power to accompany these driving beats and propulsive guitars, yet the repetitive nature of some of the songs expose a potential shortcoming. At the same time, “Catching Up On Love”  proves one of the album’s most satisfying songs as it delivers a sure-fire beat, an impassioned, full-throated vocal and blistering guitar leads. Cue “Keep Me Warm” for yet another, as its quirky guitar intro is augmented by hand claps, keyboards and a warm vocal, bolstered by additional background vocals from guest drummer, Davide Di Renzo, adding congas and a less aggressive drum treatment. The final track demonstrates the potential this band might have as an entirely different approach on another Chisholm original, “Slow Down” featuring Bowskill’s sturdy mandolin and a gentler, kinder approach – augmented by dobro for a folksier, almost country feel. Chisholm, too, reveals a sophisticated quality to his voice when he’s not blowing barn doors open. 

To this ear, more rock-blues than blues-rock, Chisholm has taken time to evolve this sound. This is no first kick at the cat after his silky-smooth beginnings in his initial jump-blues sound. As each subsequent release took on more of a blues-rock feel – embracing more of the ‘raw and dirty’ – there seems to have been a snowball effect to arrive at this place. The marriage of Chisholm’s already solid sound and substantial song-writing skills to the extreme talents of Jimmy Bowskill, seems to be the secret weapon behind such a solid, cutting-edge release, while the involvement of Reddick, Steve Marriner and the rest of these players certainly doesn’t hurt. Let’s hope there are more releases to come – as this particular union oozes with potential in a scene that’s just waiting for them.

– Eric Thom