" Convincing arpeggios, seductive acapellas, devastating slide guitar, Spikedrivers have arrived with an album that is very airy yet never vague. A must!"
“One thing is certain; this album is guaranteed to be in my Top Ten list for this year.”
"Un album superbe, vraiment superbe! Coup de coeur"
"this band should grace the stage at every festival in 2011"
Now a return to the studio produces another outstanding CD that will again draw huge attention. Ben Tyzack surely one of the finest slide guitarists there are, as well as an excellent voice; Constance Redgrave on bass and washboard and vocals plus Maurice McElroy on drums and various percussion make up this remarkable trio. For this new release 'Seven' we get fourteen tracks of high and very consistent quality, full of superb playing and vocals, all self-written. The very timely 'Easy Money In Hard Times' reflects a view of the banks and their bonuses in current difficult times. The outstanding song ‘John Henry ' sees the band stretching out on an almost work song rhythm, Ben's 12 string guitar work on 'Steady Rollin' Train' sounds so unusual, an electric 12 string as well, I actually asked Ben how he got this amazing sound on this particular song and he said he used half a capo, whatever it's quite a sound and adds even more variety to an already pretty widespread style of sounds they produce both live and on record. .
All of this talented band sing on this album and always seem to choose the right songs that suit well their voices. This is not hard electric or loud blues but blues that has texture, rhythm and just plain top quality throughout. I personally will say if you buy one blues release this year make it this one. It’s as some reviewers say a 'laster' you'll come back to it time and time again, an album you must hear, words cannot do justice to such a listener based album as this is. And do go and see them live, one of the finest and friendliest bands anywhere around the British blues scene. This is the blues as it should be played, blues that shows why this form of music has remained popular for so many years. I've been listening to blues for many years and seen some of the biggest and best known names there are but The Spikedrivers are right up there with the very best of all. That’s how good they are and how good this outstanding release is, buy with absolute confidence NOW
fRoots - no. 334 - april 2011
They’ve also written some pretty good songs for this, their seventh album… songs like the boogiefied Spiked River Blues, the whispery Blue Skies This Way, or the weighty Steady Rollin’ Train, all songs that show that The Spikedrivers are definitely on one real steady roll.
Seventh Spikedrivers album with the genuine deepest spirit of semi-acoustic blues, spiced with contemporary elements and overtones. Fourteen relaxing peaceful songs, where the group manages to communicate a calm wrapping atmosphere, with an excellent inspired guitar touch, mixture of JJ Cale and Robert Johnson. This original group includes three clever musicians. Ben Tyzack on guitar, vocals and harmonica, founded the group in London (where he comes from) eighteen years ago. He has written most of the songs included and has also composed music for Channel 4 'Car Wars'. Constance Redgrave bass, vocals and percussion, was born in Los Angeles and has worked with Otis Grand, Steve Cropper and Anson Funderburgh among others. Finally Maurice McElroy, drums, vocals and percussion comes from Belfast and he has also played with Larry Garner, Phillip Walker and Guitar Shorty. We are facing to a delicious intimate delicate good laid album, where melodic lines are drawn from the perspective of three interesting musicians who display a very attractive proposal.
Rating: MUY BUENO
Blues CD Store.com - issue 310
This latest offering from probably one of the most popular ensembles on the circuit is predictable. This might seem an insult to most but with the Spikedrivers, it means that there is an inherent quality and invention attaching to the whole project. This, their seventh release (hence the pithy title) defines their sound and yet moves it on too. Ben, Constance and Maurice have been together for some years now and one might expect that this would be a tired factory-produced collection from an established ensemble. Quite the contrary! These guys truly enjoy playing together and they experiment constantly with adding new sound, arrangements and percussion to their repertoire. This given of the Spikedrivers’ credo instantly manifests itself on any of their work and guarantees a considered freshness to their performance; both live and recorded. This album is a must-have member of any Blues collection.
Bob Williams - Blues Show Bob
ITunes - October 2010
This band never fails to surprise and delight. This album is a subtle and varied case in point, ranging from comedy, rock, goth and gospel to traditional blues with a twist. Despite the changes in pace and arrangement, no track seems out of place, and no song seems forced. These are three people with a wide variety of styles and accomplishments to their credit, and all their skills come in to play on this startlingly different and original album. (continued...)
Rating: 5 stars
Blues Matters! - UK Octoberr 2010
The Spikedrivers are not the ‘New Kids OnThe Block’ and it shows in this CD. It has all the hallmarks of being written, played and produced by seasoned professionals who know their craft and despite being time served, still have a musical direction and the enthusiasm to take it as far as possible.
They are very much rooted in the Delta but like the Mangroves found there, Spikedrivers have spread those roots wider to give the music the oxygen it craves. ‘Easy Money Hard Times’ is lyrically as up to date as it comes with its comment on the banking crisis. Gentle fingerpicked guitar running through under Ben and Constance’s vocal. There is one ‘cover’ song on the album ‘John Henry’ which starts with fingerpicked guitar with a delta rhythmic structure leading to Ben’s deep gritty vocal supported occasionally by Constance’s ethereal alto. The middle eight brings a change of tempo, a falling bass riff and slide guitar forcing the volume and a kick drum rhythm change indicative of a Native American tribal beat. The whole transforming this traditional song, using old musical methods to make a modern song. ‘Spiked River Blues’ starts with Ben and Constance in gospel mood before Maurice ups the beat and with the addition of the harp, flies the music across the continent to the west coast. The chorus takes us back to gospel before returning to the west with driven slide guitar and harp. ‘Guided By Spirits’ is a solo by Ben with gentle slide guitar throughout and the vocal and lyric of a hymn without being denominationally explicit.
This CD is well crafted, well performed and has a variety of tempo and themes. There is something for everybody here and based on this offering this band should grace the stage at every festival in 2011.
Blues In Britain (UK) - September 10
It has been a long time since I last caught up with this long-running trio but they should be well known to most Blues In Britain readers. My general impression was that they’re slicker now but still retain a blues integrity and here at lease, they’re playing much more of their own material. Most of it comes from singer/guitarist Ben Tyzack, with occasional input from bassist/vocalist Constance Redgrave and/or drummer Maurice McElroy. Redgrave contributes the mournful lament "Natalie Walks" which alternates English and French lyrics and has some eerie vocal harmony - the sort of thing you can imagine Nico or Marianne Faithfull doing. The only cover among the 14 tracks is "John Henry" which builds nicely from Tyzack’s guitar alone, adding his vocal, then harmonies and percussion reaching an instrumental climax with some nice steel-driving percussion effects.
A number of these songs also feature guest Clive Ashley on saxophone - mainly soprano, which is rarely heard on Blues recordings but adds some nice lyrical embellishments here. I noticed that Melanie Harrold has a sleeve credit as voice coach and there certainly seems to have been quite a deal of care exercised in the vocal stylings. If so, it paid off. You probably wouldn’t say that any member of the band has a great voice but they do use them to great effect. The basic instrumentation of guitar, bass and drums is enhanced by harmonica, occasional flute and percussion and the whole is blended together with some very subtle mixing. The tracks tend towards the contemplative with titles like "Such a Southern Place to Be", "Guided By Spirits" and "When Love Begins". This is an atmospheric, hypnotic and well-crafted album. Rating: 9
What is so good about the English is that their humour always brings that little extra something that is lacking in many others. With Spikedrivers, the wink is twofold: 'Seven' is their seventh album and will be released September. 7 of this year. September, a figure which, hopefully, will be the lucky number for this trio in 2010.
Spikedrivers are Ben Tyzack on vocals, guitar and harmonica, Maurice McElroy on vocals, drums and percussions, and Constance Redgrave on vocals, bass, drums and flute.
'Seven' is their fourth album co-produced with the legendary sound engineer Phill Brown (Bob Marley, Talk Talk, Dido ,..), and a specially featured blues band from last years festival 'Passion Cognac Blues'. Of the 14 titles offered on this album, only one cover has slipped in amid the group of originals, the traditional 'John Henry'. This version is far removed from the electrified 'Ballad of John Henry by Joe Bonamassa, but valued and honourable, as well.
Songwriter of nine tracks of this album and co-signer of some others, Ben Tyzack has a particularly addictive guitar, made from a blend of delta blues and folk-rock-blues such as Jimmy Page and Keith Richards played during the 70's. Logical when you know he was born in London but grew up in the south-eastern United States, absorbing all those years of delta blues. His guitar playing and his writing quality propel so much emotion into some of his songs that you have chills and tears in your eyes. It's beautiful, bright and intense at the same time, as the sublime "Such A Southern Place To Be ', slow blues on which the guest saxophonist Clive Ashley added a monumental level to this song.
For Constance Redgrave, who wrote the beautiful 'Walks Natalie, it is the opposite story as she left the U.S. to go to London where she played with Otis Grand, Steve Cropper and many others. Of Native American roots, she has naturally given to the Spikedrivers its heritage of tribal rhythms, merging bass lines and percussion to create a unique atmosphere to this group. Her voice, haunting and air all at once, captures and imprisons you in an invisible net that you can not free yourself from like on 'Come The Glorious Day'.
Other tracks, like 'My Rooster Stopped Crowing’, co-signed by the three musicians, and "Spiked River Blues' (Tyzack), exude a freshness that we might think of as old blues but brought up to date by the trio, as if we had heard these songs long ago and it is fun to hear again. This shows the quality of the songs, but also owes much to the mixing of Phill Brown.
Co-signatory 'Liquidate My Troubles', Maurice McElroy is a singer-percussionist who will become more and more of a singer as the boy is talented. Born in Belfast , he moved down to London during the 60s blues boom, passionate about flamenco and African rhythms, Maurice is nicknamed 'the master of groove'. Listen to the drums in 'Steady Rollin' Train 'or' When Love Begins', two tracks on which the game is the opposite, hitting hard on the first title and all sweetness and light on the other. Strength in a velvet glove, that's how you could define the style of the 'master of groove. "
ZICAZINE (FR) - August 10
A strong and stable line-up for some ten years now, the British folk-blues combo Spikedrivers has graced us with a seventh album, the fourth to be co-produced with the renowned Phil Brown, and they’ve called it quite simpley "Seven", perhaps to remind us of the essentials the group has once again chosen to adhere to. For guitarist Ben Tyzack, bassist Constance Redgrave and drummer Maurice McElroy, the search for perfection leads them naturally through a meticulous exploration of American roots from the genre but it is the Black African influences and above all a healthy dose of their own personalities that breathe life into this new batch of compositions grounded in their three very different and complementary voices. Well accustomed to concert halls as well as festivals, Spikedrivers have managed to create a loyal fan base throughout Europe and now offer them an especially well-wrought piece of work, perhaps as a way of saying they’d like nothing better than for their fans to come back and see them again on a different stage.
They have found not only their own style, but their own sound as well, borrowing from Robert Johnson for their primary influences but evolving very naturally toward Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Ry Cooder and, why not, Led Zeppelin, to liven up their complex and very spontaneous melodies. Although the band’s instrumentation is often very simple with only a few percussion instruments and a bit of a washboard for embellishment, it can also, when asked, become more constructed and welcome harmonicas, flutes and other saxophones to bring a new dimension to the consistently well manicured tracks. We allow ourselves to be rocked but also shaken without offering the least resistance by tunes in which American Folk at times turns into Gospel or Blues and Boogie take on more progressive, almost psychedelic colorings. Starting off with the very lyrical intro to "Baby Born" and its rural accents, "Seven" transports us like an old steam locomotive through the world of Blues in the largest possible sense of the word, stopping at stations along the way to offer us songs like "Such a Southern Place to Be", "My Rooster Stopped Crowing" "Guided By Spirits" or "Blue Skies This Way" and you’re better off just getting lost in them all and enjoying the diversity of atmospheres. Convincing arpeggios, seductive acapellas, devastating slide guitar, Spikedrivers have arrived with an album that is very airy yet never vague. A must!
Rootstime (BE) - September 10
The original line up with drummer Chris Baker has been changed. Drummer Maurice McElroy from Belfast was in place. Besides singing and writing he brings African rhythms, which contributes to the innovative sound of the Spikedrivers. Bassist Constance Redgrave, for whom music is the same as breathing, completes the trio. She played with Otis Grand and Anson Funderburgh, but also in touch with country music, and tribal. Born in Los Angeles she moved to London and is now ten years part of the Spikedrivers. Not only dothey add jazzy singing, flute and sax but it completes the picture.
In this seventh album Seven is the spontaneous dynamic between three receptive musicians, who guide themselves by the ghosts of past and present with an ear for echoes of West Africa. In "Easy Money in Hard Times' you catch a glimpse of Ali Farka Toure. The spirit of Blind Willie Johnson is haunting ' Guided By Spirits "and the jazzy, hoarsely sung" Liquidate My Troubles ", with tenor sax appears to nestle next to Mose Allison. The spiritual "Spiked River Blues" with blues harp, drum and Resonator has the power of a modern hymn.
Most of the songs Tyzack wrote himself, but the others write as well. Redgrave composed and sings the bluesy "Natalie Walks" as a contemporary Bessie Smith. "Come The Glorious Day ' you become fascinated by the magic from the drum. These sounds are again muted when Tyzack’s 'When Love Begins "performed with an intense yearning, as it were, a metaphysical dimension. And the jazzy "Such A Southern Place To Be 'brings emotion, depth and soul.
The diversity in music does not get in the way of the unity of the album, which can be attributed to Phil Brown, who along with Spikedrivers produced this album. But it is also to the merit of the three performers vocals, slide guitar, harmonica, drums and percussion which creates atmospheres like Spanish moss overshadowing their emotions, occasionally interrupted by sun spots that their blues songs happiness.
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