Up until very recently I’d never heard of Blues Pills. Now I can’t get enough of them. It was a casual mention of their name in a Crobot review in Metalhammer magazine that brought them to my attention, and fuck me, am I grateful! That’s because Blues Pills are the most exciting young blues/rock band I’ve heard in an extremely long time, and by that I mean a generation!
I love the blues, and although I wouldn’t describe myself as a diehard aficionado (all that old stuff of the 30s, 40s and 50s is great but maybe just a little too one dimensional for my liking), I am a huge fan of the blues revolution of the late sixties and early seventies and all that it spawned. Those trailblazing artists, the likes of Hendrix, Clapton, Page and Beck took blues music to a whole new level, creating a completely new genre of blues rock that really continues to be the benchmark for all established and aspiring artists today. I mean, the four names I just mentioned are all considered as guitar gods, I wonder how many current guitarists in popular bands today will be held in anything near the same regard? Very few is my guess, if any at all.
I talk often about the lack of any real musical direction in the last twenty years, since grunge was able to tap into the psyche of 90’s youth (myself included) and become the down-tuned behemoth that it was. Incidentally, grunge is yet another genre that owed plenty to those early blues pioneers and probably the last group of musicians to be remembered for changing the landscape upon which they roamed. But since the grunge movement fizzled out at the turn of the new century, either through self induced illness and in some cases death, band break-ups, or simply just an ageing audience who just weren’t that angry anymore, there’s really failed to be any real direction to modern rock music.
Lately however, that has begun to change a little. There are more and more new young bands popping up on the scene, all displaying a little more than just a blues edge about them. Granted it may not be a completely new direction, but it’s very pleasing to see the creative youth of today acknowledging and re-visiting those glory days of the old masters – Messrs Hendrix, Clapton, Page and Beck. Just thinking about it, I give a lot of credit to Jack White for that. The White Stripes, along with all his other projects were and are hugely successful and are all based upon a distinctly bluesy sound. And in his footsteps followed other modern powerhouses, the most notable of which probably being The Black Keys, even if recent releases of theirs have been slightly diluted in blues terms, it’s still the foundation of their sound.
As I said, there are many great young blues/rock bands appearing on the scene, bands like, Kill It Kid, Rival Sons, Crobot, to name but a few, all slowly but surely achieving the success they deserve, and all hailing from each side of the pond. This is not limited to one country or another, this new movement is happening as much in the UK and Europe as it is in the States. For reasons as simple as nationality, three of those four aforementioned ‘Masters’ were English and the other an American who had to come to England to be accepted and appreciated, Blues/Rock music will always and continues to have strong associations and an extremely loyal fan base within the United kingdom as much as anywhere else.
Another British artist who many would consider a ‘Master’ of the sixties blues movement but one who for one reason or another gets less credit is Peter Green. His Fleetwood Mac, the original Fleetwood Mac were a free flowing, experimental blues band who were just as responsible for changing the face of the blues as anybody else. The Boston Tea Party recordings are as good as any blues music you will ever hear. And it was those recordings that instantly sprang to my mind the first time I heard Blues Pills in full flow. I say it all the time, but some bands are just special. Sometimes the sum of a band’s parts makes so much more than each of it’s individual players. There is a magic, a chemistry that happens when certain individuals are brought together that cannot be explained or deduced, it just happens. And especially in blues music, there is a difference between a band that like the blues and want to play it, and a band where the music just seems to happen. It just seems to flow from every pore. They are not playing music, they are the music, the music is them. Blues Pills are one of those very special bands. They are the music they create.
Fronted by the immensely talented Elin Larsson, who along with having the most incredible set of pipes since Beth Hart also happens to be blonde, Swedish and gorgeous, Blues Pills are much more than a great vocalist, even if it’s Elin you just can’t help but notice first by sheer virtue of her vocal talent. Formed in Iowa by half brothers Zack Anderson (bass) and Cory Berry (drums), the latter of which has seemingly now left the band, the line-up was completed with the addition initially of Elin and followed by the extremely young and talented (he was just 16 years of age at the time and isn’t much older now) french guitarist Dorian Sorriaux. And boy can he play. Much like Peter Green there is an understated air to his style, with a similar attack and approach, a tonal clarity that evokes Greens style almost identically in the slow stuff, but sounds somewhat Hendrix-like in the faster stuff, and an ability to tear it up and shred as good as any of your Kenny Wayne Shepherds or Jonny Langs. Painted all on a backdrop of funky, driven bass lines from Zack and simple, effective drum lines now from André Kvarnström, this band have all the ingredients to do very special things. One thing that struck me the second I heard them was their authenticity. It’s a word that comes up all the time when you read what other people think about them and it really is the crux of the matter. Many bands make good blues rock music, not so many of them sound authentic doing it, very few infact. Rest assured if Blues Pills had been around in the seventies, you’d already know about them. They’d be huge and I’d be writing about some other band who were trying to be as good and revered as they are.
With a simply brilliant self titled album out earlier this year and available on iTunes, have a look at the videos I’ve posted before you go and buy it. And trust me, if this is your genre, and even if it isn’t, I very much suspect that you will go and buy it. Blues Pills are a class act.