"...a gift for evocative songwriting".
"...more captivating than ever...9 out of 10".
" ...moody, mean and gorgeous......
I bought this album the first time I saw them, doing a Sunday afternoon set at a blues festival on the history of the blues. They were simply wonderful; the set went all too quickly. They are all three of them quite superb musicians, they enjoy playing and they give their audience a great time as well. This album is a pure joy throughout, all three sing, Ben is quite simply one of the very best guitarists in the land his slide work always clear and fluent. Bass and drums/percussion just lay such a solid backdrop. You will fall in love with this album and straight away get the other three, they are all so good, the latest being a live set. They are on tour through December with Ben Waters Band, look out for them you'll be as knocked out by their performance as I was, in the meantime get this album, sit back, relax and enjoy this wonderful band. This is goodtime, ragtime and jolly good time blues played by masters of their craft for our listening pleasure, just what more could you want?
The SPIKEDRIVERS are a 3 piece touring blues band. Nothing remarkable about that until you shut your eyes while listening to them live. You are then transported back to a bygone era of stripped back blues, smokey halls and old men playing harmonica. They are a fabulous live band and are best appreciated that way. However the 3 albums they have made are well worth a listen if only to evoke some good memories.
The Spikedrivers run the rails on this one. Whether reflective, irritated, moody or silly, they showcase their songwriting, arranging and playing talents on all tracks. Great cover of a Stones tune too. You have to listen to it a few times to catch all the little pieces. But, on a good stereo, it really comes to life.
Another keeper from the Spikedrivers. Cool, smooth and far from the ordinary. It takes lots of listens to catch the nuances. Give it a spin.
Three musicians that sound like at least six, an astounding depth of understanding of their genre and a subtlety that leaves you breathless all add up to the best album to date. Blue Trash is a superb body of work it is true, but Ain’t it Real brings a new, darker and edgier feel to this sublime group. Contrast a plenty is heard here, from the rock styling of Young and Stupid to a native American feel in Angel of Blue and the music hall comedy timings’ of Maurice’s Two Left Feet. All of this wrapped up in an effortless Blues package led by Ben’s shimmering guitar work. Finally, Hold Me Still is one the few songs that can make me cry, it aches with passions. Stunning, quite, quite stunning. Bravo.
NetRhythms (UK) - October 08
Loved this one! Spikedrivers draw their direct inspiration from American acoustic-electric country-blues. I suppose that given the trio's credentials (and those hard years on the road since their first album in 2003 - which I sadly haven't heard) I shouldn't have to admit to marvelling at the sheer authenticity of their take on bluesy Americana.
The band's main songwriter is guitarist Ben Tyzack, and his immersion in the idiom is total and all the while utterly convincing; the lineup's completed by bassist Constance Redgrave and drummer Maurice McElroy, both instrumentally equal partners. They both help out on vocals from time to time, Constance's contributions being particularly impressive and atmospheric.
It turns out that Ben's written (or part-written) all but three of the CD's 15 tracks. There's a more-than-respectable cover of the Stones' No Expectations (affirming the wonderfully rootsy Beggar's Banquet vibe of Ben's own compositions), and the remaining two tracks are creations of Constance's (of which the eerie Angel Of Blue is a truly spinechilling CD highlight in my book). Constance takes lead vocal on her own compositions, and though she hasn't got what you might call a conventional blues-voice her weary and knowing delicacy of expression speaks volumes more than a shouter might with using twice the lung-power.
Mostly, the album runs the gamut from hard-drivin' dirty lowdown to brooding measured dirty mean 'n' moody as it progresses, Ben's writing coping effortlessly with everything in that there kitchen from driving uptempo harmonica-boogie (Wrong Way Henry) to melancholy reflection (Blues To The River) to washboard-ridden acoustic shuffle (Wear Out My Name), with three rather neat instrumental cuts in there too (the first, Scarecrow Eyes, has the ambience of Albatross-style Mac, but remains its own animal).
In the end, Ain't It Real proves a very apt title for this distinctly impressive set, which though cleanly textured and recorded conjures a real sense of space and appreciation of internal dynamics with a miraculous subtlety that's rarely a feature of albums in this genre.
Blues Revue (US) - March 06
You've got to hand it to the Spikedrivers. Four albums on and they continue to break new ground, evolving their sound in a way that's always more intriguing than the last time. Key to their sensibility is their ability to control and build atmosphere, setting a trap that lures you in with a deceptively simple approach. Harder to do than it sounds.
Ain't It Real features 15 tracks – all originals save a ballsy cover of the Stones' “No Expectations.” Same players: Ben Tyzack on harmonica, vocals and all manner of guitar; Constance Redgrave on bass and vocals; and Maurice McElroy on percussion and (primarily) backing vocals. Tyzack remains the guiding light; his soulful vocals and guitar continue to be the Spikedrivers' strongest suit. Redgrave's bass and McElroy's inventive percussion add depth to each song;; on “Scarecrow Eyes” an elaborate instrumental that showcases intoxicating finger-picking and slide, Redgrave and McElroy are barely there, yet they're far from invisible. The band's forte lies in its member's ability to stay on the same plane, as evidenced on “Morning Train” where Redgrave and McElroy add haunting backup vocals to Tyzack's sleepy-paced lead.
Redgrave takes the microphone on the ethereal “Angel of Blue” and the torchy “Gypsy Wind” and though her voice isn't going to stop traffic, it's a worthwhile addition to the Spikedrivers' arsenal. McElroy reserves his vocals for the lyrically lighter compositions, notably “Goodbye Mr. Blues.” On “Hold Me Still,” another standout, McElroy deftly uses the udu drum to separate the Spikedrivers from the rest of the pack. Two additional instrumentals – the buoyant “Smoochin” and the near-inspirational “Waterfall” – reveal the influence of jazz and world music, and producer Phill Brown's live-to-analog recording gives the sound a warmth that helps capture the band at its best.
Eric Thom - Blues Revue
fRoots (UK) - Dec 05/Jan 06
The Spikedrivers prefer to play with a modicum of volume, drawing the listener closer to their original musical blend. On their new album the band weave their magic on ten new songs, three instrumentals and a cover of Jagger and Richards's No Expectations. The trio of Ben, Constance and Maurice work together in perfect symmetry, each member providing an equal measure of musicianship and creativity that helps build the Spikedrivers' individual sound. Ben's compositions range from the vibrant tempos of Young & Stupid and Wrong Way Henry to the melancholy of Morning Train, Blues To The River and the instrumental Scarecrow Eyes. Constance's Gypsy Wind has a jazzy tinge while her Angel Of Blue is downright eerie. Maurice provides a lighter counterpoint singing his Goodbye Mr. Blues and the collectively written Two Left Feet. Admirably inventive, Ain't It Real is a subtle and rewarding listen that warrants multiple replays.
Dave Peabody - fRoots
Big City Rhythm & Blues (US) - Dec 05/Jan06
The Delta blues and beyond Spikedrivers, who have a strong fan base throughout the UK and Europe, are a talented trio that seem to be constantly on the road. Ben Tyzack from South Carolina who founded the group in 1992 plays a variety of guitars (particularly fine resonator), harmonica and kazoo while Hollywood born Constance Redgrave contributes dove-tailing bass and percussion, and Maurice McElroy staunchly lives up to his ‘Groove Meister' nickname on drums and percussion instruments including Moroccan bongos, udu drum (most noticeably) and Leedy temple blocks. All three sing marvelously and compose alternately chilling, nostalgic and reflective songs – the sole cover is a slide guitar-soulful exploration of the Rolling Stones bare-bone blues "No Expectations', a live favorite for years that they finally decided to commit to disc.
A trio of instrumentals pliantly reveals the connective chemistry that makes their music so unique. No rough edges, odd angles or catch-up-if-you-can curves here as the Fahey-esque “Scarecrow Eyes” a restlessly riffing, easy gaited “Smoochin” (both by Tyzack) and the brief set-closing exotica “Waterfall” exhibit a collaborative momentum and genius that is constantly arresting and aurally provocative. Eye-openers among the other cuts encompass an incantatory, intensely moving “Morning Train” (with some proselytizing harp work from Tyzack), McElroy's Taj Mahal-ish “Goodbye Mr. Blues”, a hasty ode to life on the road titled “Wrong Way Henry”, Redgrave's American Indian accented “Angel Of Blue”, and the jug-band spirited “Wear Out My Name.” Redgrave's jazzy, devil-may-care vocal turn on her own “Gypsy Wind”, complemented swingingly, yin and yangingly by Tyzack's acoustic guitar finger picking is also noted.
These are three chops-rich musicians with ambition to spare with no lack of fresh ideas. Behold the photo of Ben with his entire Iowa/South Carolina/Georgia beer can collection on the band's newly freshened website at www.spikedrivers.net.
Gary von Tersch - Big City Rhythm & Blues
Living Blues (US) - November 2005
This London based trio was first formed by Ben Tyzack in 1992, and the present line up of Tyzack (vocals, guitar and harmonica), Constance Redgrave (vocals, bass and percussion), and Maurice McElroy (vocals, drums and percussion) has been working together since 2000. They are one of the UK's busiest bands touring throughout the UK and Europe, appearing at all of the major clubs and festivals.
Their music is a mixture of American roots and world music with a strong emphasis on the blues - all performed with equal commitment and energy. This latest outing has 14 original compositions and one cover, of the Rolling Stones song No Expectations. The lead vocals from Tyzack are engaging and natural and his highly crafted guitar work, including some delicious bottleneck, reminds one at times of Mississippi John Hurt. Both Redgrave and McElroy share the vocals, adding their distinctive personalities. All of the material is skilfully arranged and a number of the titles have a timeless quality, looking back to their early influences while adding contemporary ideas.
This confident trio has chosen material with integrity and with creativity. They use interesting instruments such as an udu drum and leedy temple blocks to great effect, making this a highly recommended set from one of the UK's most in-demand bands.
Robert Tilling - Living Blues
Blues In Britain (UK) - October 2005
The Spikedrivers will be no strangers to Blues in Britain readers, for over the past few years their live gigs and past recordings have already been highly praised, and I can only do the same with this recent outstanding set.
I was fortunate to see the band perform at the very successful Blues and Beyond Festival, held in Stroud earlier this year, and was greatly impressed by their intriguing choice of material and engaging stage presence. The band was first set up during 1992 by Ben Tyzack (vocals, guitar, kazoo and harmonica) and the line up today have been working together since 2000, and have built up a very strong following throughout the UK and Europe.
All but one of the fifteen titles are originals, including two instrumentals. While most of the titles are written by Tyzack, both Constance Redgrave (vocals, bass, and percussion) and Maurice McElroy (vocals, drums and percussion) make valuable writing contributions. Although much of this material has strong blues overtones their wide musical interests shine through. There are suggestions of West African/Mali sounds in "Hold Me Still" and I was reminded a little of J.J. Cale in "Gypsy Wind" - this Redgrave original has an infectious jazzy bounce and is certainly one of the very fine moments.
I have always enjoyed Tyzack's vocals and with this very entertaining set they are more captivating than ever while his guitar playing, including some gutsy crystal clear slide work, is inventive and creative. I have always admired the way in which these three very talented musicians are willing to experiment and evoke unusual contemporary sounds while keeping their feet firmly in the past with the music they love. They work sympathetically together allowing each other plenty of space in which to express their own individuality and all with impressive skill, integrity and commitment.
The deep and evocate hollow thud of McElroy's udu drum gives a unique atmosphere to a number of the titles, while the use of other unusual percussion instruments adds interest and intrigue throughout. Tyzack proves to be a very imaginative and poetic writer and McElroy's only original "Goodbye Mr. Blues" shows that they also have a sense of humour. There is a surreal quality to the Redgrave original "Angel Of Blue" and the short but lyrical instrumental "Waterfall" brings this high quality set to a perfect end.
Bob Tilling - Blues In Britain
Blues Matters! - UK 2005
A new CD from the SPIKEdrivers is an eagerly awaited occasion. Constance, Ben & Maurice have such a unique approach and style and always come up with a few surprises and their latest offering is no exception. With 14 of the 15 tracks originals the one cover is of the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards number "No Expectations", a song they have included in their live sets for quite a while to popular acclaim so they thought they would commit it to record.
The CD opens with a wonderfully brooding and laid back number "Devil's Breath" which is moody, mean and gorgeous, "Young & Stupid" is a rocking up-tempo romp whilst Scarecrow Eyes" is the first of three fabulous instrumentals that are so atmospheric that you need to shut out the world and let them pervade your inner soul.
No SPIKEdrivers CD would be complete without some train songs and track four delivers with another moody offering, "Mornin' Train" with haunting backing vocals from Constance and Maurice using his udu drums to great effect behind Ben's sparing guitar, vocals and harmonica. Four tracks in and I am in heaven! Maurice takes the vocals on his own composition, "Goodbye Mr Blues" whilst it is Constance's turn on her composition "Angel of Blue" which contains a middle section which soars away ethereally over the guys chanted backing vocals. There is a gospel feel to "Blues To The River" whilst "Hold Me Still" fades in with some lovely acoustic picking from Ben underpinned by the insistent throb of Maurice on udu drums again.
Another Constance number sees her in torch song mode with the jazzy "Gypsy Wind" which is followed by a real hoe-down with Ben singing, guitaring & singing, no mean feat. "Smoochin'" is another lovely instrumental, "Two Left Feet" which starts with some studio discussion before Maurice launches into another wry and witty observation on life. "No Expectations" features some lovely slide guitar from Ben whilst "Wear Out My Name" is another of those wonderful SPIKEdrivers numbers, which are so much a part of them. The finale is another delicious but all too short instrumental, "Waterfall".
This is yet another masterwork from the SPIKEdrivers and serves to prove if proof were needed why they are in such demand here & in Europe on both the Festival and venue circuit. Three nicer people you could not meet and you will have to go a long way to get a better CD than "Ain't It Real" this year.....
Ashwyn Smyth - Blues Matters
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