Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown,
The Devil to Pay
(Ruf Records, 2015)

If there are two things that Kim Simmonds is good at, they are playing blues guitar and producing records. You might argue that, after 50 years in the business, he ought to be, and that's true, but many veteran musicians hit a sticking point and fail to grow beyond it.

Simmonds is not one of them.

Savoy Brown started life as the Savoy Brown Blues Band in London in 1965, and during the British invasion gained a healthy following by touring America repeatedly. From the beginning, they had trouble keeping musicians in the band; their personnel changes were frequent enough that fans had trouble keeping up with who was in and who was out of the lineup. Simmonds was always there, though, and before too long he was the only founding member left.

He has kept a version of the band going all of these years, and today they work as a blues-oriented power trio, with Simmonds on guitar, Pat DeSalvo on bass and Garnet Grimm on drums. And these guy are good. This album is as fine as anything the band has ever done and shows that, as the musicians age, they don't settle into a comfortable middle-aged groove. No, they still drive. Simmonds' guitar slices through the night like headlights, speaking in a complementary voice to his singing. The response lines are imaginative and inventive and the solos warm your soul. DeSalvo and Grimm know exactly how to push the music along without overpowering it.

What makes the record wonderful though is the production Simmonds has brought to it. It is magnificently engineered, so that every note of every instrument can be heard and it can be heard at exactly the level of volume it needs to fit that overall pattern of the song. Nothing is excessive, nothing regressive.

If you're tired of '70s rock masquerading as blues and you want to hear a genuine fusion of blues and rock, you can't do better than The Devil to Pay.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

13 February 2016

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