To say that The Blue Lena have pedigree would be something of an understatement. Listing all their musical endeavours would take reams of paper, but take it as read that they all cut their teeth with the cream of British rock. Therefore, their debut album comes with a certain weight of expectation, anticipation, and baited breath. Rising, majestically, to the challenge, Darkwood is a twelve track affair that plants its flag firmly in rock’s fertile soil and makes it known that there’s a new challenger to the throne.
Some music instantly grabs you by the private parts and gives a good tug, and that’s certainly the case with opening track ‘Last Chance Saloon’. If there was any doubts to the band’s prowess then the riff which heralds its arrival blows them away. It’s totally addictive and acts as a warning siren to alert you that you’re in for some good music. It doesn’t disappoint and feels as if the band are indeed drinking in said saloon, throwing all they have into the pot to produce the best song (and album) they can. It’s a fine slab of rock that perfectly encapsulates the band’s modus operandi; simultaneously acknowledging the past whilst setting its sights on the future, it is at once familiar but refreshingly original, and it’s these opposites, the antiquated and modern, pulled together into a cohesive whole that makes ‘Last Chance Saloon’ (and, indeed the whole of Darkwood) sparkle so.
The Blue Lena operate as a septet and you’d expect such an ensemble to sound loose and scattered, yet they are surprisingly compact. The band operate on a “less-is-more” level, and it serves them well. The twin guitar attack is prominent, but not obtrusive, and unlike some pairings they don’t feel the need to scrawl on every surface and the same is true of the rhythm section. Often, the drums and bass seem to play behind the beat rather than dictating it and this makes for a sound that’s very easy on the ears and when you wash that sound in lush keys and factor in Peter Yeomans’ oak-aged vocals (nicely counterpointed by those of Fi Channon) and you have a brand of rock that is the very nectar of the gods, it’s a treacly sound and one which radiates like a warm Marshall stack.
This collective are one band who refused to be painted into a corner and incorporate blues, Southern and country rock into their repertoire, bringing one genre to the fore at one point whist receding others or sometimes mixing them all together like master alchemists. The result is an album that ebbs and flows without veering into eclecticism, and subsequently we have the cool Aerosmith shuffle of ‘Something ‘Bout The Way’ sitting next to the Southern-fried Skynyrd swagger of ‘Undertow’ which echoes directly from the Bayou. However, The Blue Lena are a British band and it’s the carnival-for-the ears, Stones-meet-Faces ‘What Do You Want?’ that brings the album to an epic conclusion, and one that ensures Darkwood won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
- Last Chance Saloon
- Only When She’s Dancing
- Nashville Song (It’s All In The Letter)
- The Wrong Side Of Midnight
- Can You Feel The Rain?
- Something ‘Bout The Way
- Long Way Home
- What Do You Want?