Rival Sons – The Great Western Valkyrie


Review by Paul Davis


Release Date: 9 June 2014

They’ve been called “the hottest band in the world” by Bob Harris. Classic Rock has said that “the future of rock n’ roll belongs to them”. With one of their songs recently performed on American Idol it seems that Rival Sons, much loved by rock audiences, are close to mainstream success. From the beginning, Rival Sons have been compared to Zeppelin and The Doors and have had that ‘retro’ tag attached to them. However, when ‘Electric Man’ opens The Great Western Valkyrie with a monstrous Scott Holiday riff, the rhythm section kicks in and finally the incredible vocals of Jay Buchanan arrive, this is unmistakably Rival Sons.

Nashville is where Rival Sons go to record now since their producer (and fifth Rival Son) Dave Cobb moved there. This time they took six weeks to record, a long time for this band that are all about spontaneity, but nothing is overdone. There’s a change on bass with Robin Everhart departing and long-time friend of the band Dave Beste stepping in. Jay gets soulful on break up song ‘Good Luck’ but there’s no sadness here (“It’s gonna hurt right now but later you won’t even cross my mind”). Keyboards have been used on previous albums but they’re more of a feature on this one, played (mainly) by Ikey Owens (Jack White, The Mars Volta). Rather than take anything away from the Rival Sons sound, they add depth and an extra quality to it.

‘Good Things’ was one of the first songs to be released from the album and from the first listen was simply astonishing. Again Jay’s vocals are full of soul, and like on previous albums, it’s a song with a story to tell. There’s “the boy with the bomb in his jacket that didn’t explode” while you’re left intrigued by the line “nobody knows for sure what happened that day”. There’s some great interplay between Holiday and Ikey Owens.

‘Open My Eyes’ has a magnificent chorus with an impassioned plea from Jay, while the song also shows his strength as a lyricist and has some wonderful psychedelic guitar from Scott Holiday. ‘Rich and the Poor’, much like ‘The Heist’ from Head Down wouldn’t sound out of place in a Tarantino movie. Quentin should definitely be giving Rival Sons a call next time he’s putting together a soundtrack.

‘Belle Star’ continues the laid back feel while Jay tells the story of the outlaw queen shot down in her prime. Not just great songs here but a history lesson too. Just like ‘Face of Light’ and ‘Jordan’ from the last two albums this one also has a killer ballad. ‘Where I’ve been’ has Jay singing of unconditional love despite what may have happened in the past. ‘Destination on Course’ is the epic closer. Jay Buchanan, Michael Miley and Dave Beste are as impressive as ever but this really this is a seven-minute tour de force from Scott Holiday. If Classic Rock has it right, then rock n’ roll is in good hands.

Rival Sons – The Great Western Valkyrie9 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. Electric Man
  2. Good Luck
  3. Secret
  4. Play The Fool
  5. Good Things
  6. Open My Eyes
  7. Rich and the Poor
  8. Belle Star
  9. Where I’ve Been
  10. Destination On Course



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