Review by Paul Davis
‘Keep my head down and keep on swinging’ sings Jay Buchanan on the opening and (almost) title track of Rival Sons third album. Rival Sons completed touring on the back of Pressure and Time in July and head back out in September. Head Down was recorded in 22 days. Keep on swinging indeed. Pressure and Time with its 70’s hard rock, blues and soul influences captured the imagination of many, especially here in the UK. Well, Rival Sons have now raised the bar with Head Down.
Rival Sons feature the sublime and soulful vocals of Buchanan, Scott Holiday on guitar and a rhythm section featuring Mike Miley on drums and Robin Everhart on bass. The band has spoken of the retro tag being ‘tired’ and despite the influences they are creating something very much their own.
Highlights of the album include ‘All The Way’ and ‘The Heist’, both representing a huge leap forward in songwriting terms, the former with a big Motown influence, whilst the latter, maybe it’s the style and mood of the track or the subject matter but this wouldn’t sound out of place amongst some of the classics on Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
Elsewhere on the album, ‘Until The Sun Comes’ has a Rolling Stones vibe while ‘Jordan’ is a beautiful acoustic ballad in the vein of ‘Face of Light’ from the last album. ‘You Want To’ features an incredible vocal performance over an irresistible Scott Holiday riff.
The short but incredibly sweet acoustic instrumental ‘Nava’ leads into the epic ‘Manifest Destiny Pt.1’. These two contrasting tracks back to back really showcase the talents of Scott Holiday, with the latter perhaps his finest moment, not just on Head Down, but on anything Rival Sons have recorded to date. It is also on ‘Manifest Pt.1’ that the Zeppelin comparisons are most apparent.
Closing track ‘True’ is another acoustic-led ballad but with Buchanan showing his versatility, evoking the spirit of Jeff Buckley. It’s perhaps a little low key ending to the album, but no less outstanding.
Rival Sons are a band with one foot in the past but with enough originality to set them apart. As individuals, they are undoubtedly talented, but their chemistry as a band has produced something truly special, the album of their career so far and possibly one of the best albums you will hear in 2012.
9 out of 10
- Keep On Swinging
- Wild Animal
- You Want to
- Until The Sun Comes
- Run From Revelation
- All The Way
- The Heist
- Three Fingers
- Manifest Destiny Pt.1
- Manifest Destiny Pt.2