Within twenty seconds of Simon McBride taking the stage I knew that his long awaited debut album would be one to watch out for. Sure enough the opening track on Rich Man Falling more than lives up to that expectation and proves hard to get past without hitting the replay button several times.
Coming from Ireland will no doubt attract comparisons to the legendary Rory Gallagher. Yet there is much more to Simon McBride’s style. There are nods to Stevie Ray in there, touches of Hendrix, and much more of his own undeniable style, and presence.
The album is made up of thirteen tracks, eleven of them McBride originals. As if to underline one of the comparisons he also adds a brilliant version of Hendrix’s “Power Of Soul” along with his take on the Free track “Be My Friend”.
Like me you may have come to the album by watching him play live. If, however, it is the other way round and you get to the album first I guarantee you will be on his MySpace page checking those tour dates before the end of the first track. “Down To The River” is just short of four minutes of extraordinary class, delivered by one of the hottest guitar lights around.
As with many of his illustrious predecessors it was always destined to be this way. At the grand old age of fifteen McBride won UK’s Guitarist magazine’s ‘Young Guitarist Of The Year' award. He then joined Def Leppard’s Vivian Campbell in Sweet Savage, recorded two albums, and played some major festivals with them.
It took until 2008 for this album to take shape but the end result is well worth the wait. His versatility shines through and is shown with the early switch he makes with “Standing Still” a slow burning shifting of gears.
Quality requires yet more quality of course and not only do his self-penned tracks achieve this but he has surrounded himself with a band of excellent musicians. Drummer Paul Hamilton, and bass player Gareth Hughes provide the solid foundation to McBride's instinctive playing.
Listen to his vocals on the groove driven “Fat Pockets” with its scorching solo. Alternatively listen to the nicely melodic “So Much Love To Give” and that versatility literally smacks you between your speakers.This album is more rock than blues but blues based rock all the same.
It’s every reviewers nightmare scenario to try and avoid the words scorching (already used), searing, or soaring when trying to describe his many excellent solos throughout the album. Just take it as read that they are all of those and a lot more. Meanwhile, his harder edge shows through on the pulsating “Pushing It Out” a track that is carried home by his gritty vocals.
If you are arriving here from the direction of the much missed Jeff Healy, or Joe Bonamassa you will find much to connect with. The same can be said of that harder edge too with touches of Michael Schenker and, of course, the influence of Vivian Campbell.
The deep groove of the title tracks leads to the luscious blues slide of “Devil Woman”. It’s not easy for anyone to take on anything sung by Paul Rodgers and played by Paul Kossoff and yet his version of “Be My Friend” originally from Free’s Highway more than blows that theory apart. It’s effortlessly, excellent, and heavily taps into the original genius.
The quality relentlessly continues through the funky trio of “Change”, “Tell Me Why”, and “You’ve Got A Problem”. “DC” if anything takes it a notch higher with a hook laden highlight among one of the strongest sets you will hear on any debut. As if that wasn’t enough he wraps up with an incredible take on Hendrix’s “Power Of Soul” from his Band Of Gypsies era.
Simon McBride has arrived and delivered an album that leaves you like a thirsty dog panting for more.