Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Old Riley & The Water: “Biting Through” (2018) CD Review

Old Riley & The Water is the trio of Sean Riley on guitar and vocals, Ray Micarelli on drums, and Andrew Landry on bass. Based in New Orleans, this group creates original blues music with some classic sounds. Biting Through, the group’s debut EP, features mostly original material written by Sean Riley and Joshua Cook. Joining them on this release are Joshua Cook on guitar, vocals and tambourine; and Scott Craver on harmonica on several tracks.

The disc opens with its only cover, a fun, cool rendition of “Howlin’ For My Darlin’,” a tune written by Chester Burnett (Howlin’ Wolf) and Willie Dixon. Right away this band establishes that great, classic rhythm, this version being one to get you moving. The rhythm is tight, and yet the song also has a loose feel, particularly because of the vocal delivery. This song has also been covered by Tab Benoit, Stevie Ray Vaughan and George Thorogood And The Destroyers, among others. Then we get into the original material, but that doesn’t mean we lose those classic vibes. Not at all. “Blues Walking” has a delicious timeless back porch blues sound, which I totally dig. “Up jumped the devil/Tried to buy my soul/And leave me hanging from the gallows pole/I woke up this morning/Blues walking around like a man.” I like the backing vocals echoing the last line.

Then “Kind-Hearted Woman” has a heavier vibe, with more of a rock element, and yet is a love song of sorts. It’s interesting that the guitar sometimes comes through more clearly than the vocals; the vocals on this album have something of a rough quality, in the delivery, but also in the presentation, which reminds me of some late 1960s recordings. But it is the guitar on this track that makes this one of my favorite tracks, along with the harmonica. There is something seriously catchy about it. “She’s a kind-hearted woman/Telling me to hurry home/She’s a kind-hearted woman/Calling me back where I belong.” I was into this tune from the first time I put on the disc, and the more I listen to it, the more I love it. That’s followed by “Try And Understand” (the CD case has the songs listed slightly out of order, flipping this track and the next one). “Try And Understand” features some wonderful work on harmonica over that classic, somewhat easygoing rhythm. “Gotta slip away when the morning brings the light/Because if I stay I’ll be sure to cause a fight/Oh baby, baby, try and understand/I just want to be your lover/Don’t want to be your old man.”

“Biting Through” comes on strong, with some heavy fuzz, the guitar nearly overpowering the vocals at times. This track has more than enough raw power. It is blues rock, with equal emphasis on both, and demands some volume. “Moving up, feeling down.” Then “Trouble” is fun from its very start, with that familiar, delightful rhythm, a sound that makes me smile immediately. The first lines are “Talking about trouble/Trouble always comes my way.” These days, it feels like trouble is coming everyone’s way. There is plenty of good work on guitar, and I like that strange rumbling sound toward the end over the rhythm, like an alien craft hovering overhead or something. Oh, that might mean trouble indeed! The disc then concludes with “Power To Change,” which has a surprisingly funky groove, as well as a positive, optimistic, empowering message. “You’ve got the power to change/It’s up to you to use it/You’ve got the power to change/And you’re never going to lose it/You’ve got the power to change/Tell me what you’re going to do with it.” This turns out to be one of my favorite tracks, and I think it’s going to hold an appeal for a lot of folks. It’s also an excellent way to end the disc.

CD Track List
  1. Howlin’ For My Darlin’
  2. Blues Walking
  3. Kind-Hearted Woman
  4. Try And Understand
  5. Biting Through
  6. Trouble
  7. Power To Change 
Biting Through is scheduled to be released on CD on November 1, 2018. It was made available digitally at the end of July.

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