Vargas Blues Band – Heavy City Blues


Review by Ian Savage

Off Yer Rocka Recordings

Release date: 1 May 2014

From Madrid to LA and back again via Buenos Aires, Southampton and Jamaica, among countless others, veteran guitarist Javier Vargas has certainly covered the requisite miles to consider himself a dues-paying bluesman. In twenty-odd years at the helm of the Vargas Blues Band, he has put out a couple of dozen albums to a notably warmer reception across the Channel than on British shores. Heavy City Blues aims to finally break the market, ahead of a UK tour later this year.

On the first few listens, it’s unlikely to do so. For starters, there’s very little here that could genuinely be described as ‘blues’ – 12-bar structures are few and far between (harmonica-infused ‘Don’t Step Over Me’ and vaguely Tex-Mex-ish ‘Rolling In Trance’ come closest) – and the focus is all too often on the mainman’s guitar pyrotechnics at the expense of a decent hookline or vocal melody. Opener ‘Shake Baby Shake’ comes across more Velvet Revolver than SRV, and so the majority of the LP continues – if you’re after anything in the style of the apparent recent ‘blues revival’ (Vintage Trouble, Black Keys et al) look elsewhere.

What you will find here are a couple of listenable but less-than-inspired instrumentals (‘Back To My Roots’, closer ‘Anaconda Style’), some 80s-rock balladry (‘Love Hurts’, ‘Searching For Love’), and a ZZ Top-ish moment or two (‘Hush Don’t Cry’) – and a strong sense that this has all been done before, only better. Even given a couple of dozen spins waiting for an epiphany, Heavy City Blues still has a decidedly average feel and will likely be skipped should it ever come up on shuffle.

By all means give this a go should you be into middle-of-the-road 80s-style rock; just don’t be fooled by the ‘blues band’ tagline, and don’t be surprised when you inevitably go back to the classic Skid Row, Aerosmith or Hanoi Rocks records where the style was at its zenith.

Vargas Blues Band – Heavy City Blues6 out of 10

Track listing: 

  1. Shake Baby Shake
  2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus
  3. Searching For Love
  4. Back To My Roots
  5. Love Hurts
  6. Hush Don’t Cry
  7. Sin City
  8. Don’t Step Over Me
  9. Banker’s Blues
  10. Rolling In Trance
  11. Anaconda Style