Joe Blanton may not be a name that you are familiar with – yet that should all change with the release of his long awaited debut solo album, ‘Good, Bad, Right or Wrong’. This cat oozes rock ‘n’ roll legitimacy and needs to be on your rock radar. Here’s why. Blanton invokes the spirit of Chuck Berry/early 70s Stones/Quo/Fogerty etc yet blends it with his own distinctive melodic sensibilities. Comparisons aside, this is one hell of an impressive debut album that should resonate with fans of classic rock /Americana.
Blanton first came to prominence in the mid 80s via Royal Court Of China, a band who released a couple of impressively original hard rock albums on A&M Records that unfortunately got lost amongst the glut of late 80s L.A. heavy metal sludge. In recent years Blanton has been a prime mover in The Bluefields, a high profile Nashville based band that features Dan Baird, Warner Hodges and Brad Pemberton (of Steve Earle’s band) in their ranks. The Bluefields have released three albums of vital, engaging and relevant rock ‘n’ roll, and it was with The Bluefields that really made punters sit up and pay attention to this Blanton guy. Blanton has been a significant collaborator on recent albums by both Baird and Hodges and has brought much musical muscle to the table – and not just in terms of song writing or playing. Blanton is also a producer, engineer, and as is known in industry terms, ‘has a good ear’. Blanton’s input into both Baird and Hodges’ albums over recent years cannot be understated. Good albums into great ones – and consistently so. Blanton also filled in for Baird on some US/Euro dates last year when Baird was out of action and being treated for Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. Which brings me to ‘Good, Bad, Right or Wrong’.
There are ten tunes on the album and no sign of filler. Top to bottom – this is one solid outing with Blanton having written all the tunes (with the exception of four co-written with Baird), as well as playing 99% of the instruments as well.
The album opens with the groove heavy, ‘Along For the Ride’, highlighted by a stirring middle eight and strong vocal. There’s an unassuming southern quality to ‘Love Is Heavy’, from its big raucous verses to an almost plaintive, post chorus soft vocal. Super catchy with singalong hooks, and flush with euphemisms. Superb. The big sounding 70’s rock of ‘Lie To Yourself’ is another that hits the mark with its blue denim/beat up Telecaster quality and Cheap Trick-like chorus. Did someone say hit single? You want another? How about the Scorchers-like ‘Here Is My Song’, or ‘Wearin’ Me Out’, another bitchin’ rocker with singalong chorus and Keef-like swagger that should satisfy the purists, yet it’s the splintering guitar work that is the icing on the cake. Killer tune. As is ‘Americana Breakdown’, with its radio friendly chorus and Springsteen-like thematic. This is a fine example of what a melodic pop song with a hard edge should be. Absolutely love the big drums, echoing guitars and swampy blues on the expansive ‘Poison Well’. It’s also hard to go past the sinister groove that underlies ‘Forgetful Heart’ before it breaks out with another big chorus and searing guitar. How can I not mention ‘That Was Now This Is Then?’ This hits another bullseye and is total Quo/Fogerty. A smoking hard rocker, this purrs like a well-tuned muscle car.
Whilst there is a nod to the past, Blanton has managed to create a rock record that is both memorable, original and contemporary. Super catchy, hook heavy songs with an excess of melody. Blanton’s use of instrumentation is superb – as is his effective use of both space and fill in the songs – this allows the listener to hear each song and its various arrangements on their own merits. Blanton’s raspy rock voice suits the material perfectly.
I’m already on record as naming Dan Baird & Homemade Sin’s ‘Screamer’ record as the 2018 album of the year. Joe Blanton’s ‘Good, Bad, Right or Wrong’ is pretty damn comprehensive though and comes in a close second. Very impressive and thoroughly recommended. 10 out of 10.
‘Good, Bad, Right or Wrong’ is released on 1 December 2018 on Underground Treehouse Records.
For more information go to https://www.thebluefields.com/home