Album Review : AARON KEYLOCK – Cut Against The Grain

Review by Peter Coates
From the opening riff of All The Right Moves it appears that the UK has produced another stunning young talent in Aaron Keylock, able to combine the truly British classic 60’s and 70’s blues rock sound of Free and the Clapton, Beck, Page-era guitarists, with a modern American southern rock twist! Hints of early Black Keys or White Stripes in the stripped-down riff and drum lines combine with a greater variety of guitar sounds and raw vocals.

Aaron Keylock is just 19 years old, and has been touring non-stop for the past 3 or 4 years, with UK festival shows at Bloodstock (2014) and both Rambling Man and Download (2015) to provide some real rock credibility, and then touring with the likes of The Answer, Blackberry Smoke, The Cadillac Three and most recently Joanne Shaw-Taylor, to demonstrate the breadth of the audience for this raw-edged guitar rock’n’roll.

Down provides some complex time changes along with the blistering slide guitar work, and some slick drumming, and then the slide re-appears in the old-school Kings of Leon sound of Medicine Man – the first track ever recorded, which also features some effective backing vocals in a rabble-rousing chorus.

One of the other key influences appears to be the late great Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore, and the singalong Falling Again combines that 70’s Irish blues rock swagger, with a modern pop feel, which is both clever and effective; and the epic blues ballad Just One Question is right out of the latter’s top drawer. It was written when Aaron was just 13 which doesn’t quite gel with the tone and content of the old bluesman loved and lost lyrics – but kids today grow up quick, and the guitar playing is sensational!

The title track Against The Grain sees Aaron deliver a laconic and casual vocal line over a ripping slide guitar and rolling drums, and the harmony vocals which bring the 70’s back into focus. That’s Not Me is delivered in a Ray Davies drawl, so think The Faces or The Kinks doing a great pop song with some killer guitar way to the front of the mix, and you can imagine how exciting this will be live.

There is some haunting piano and vocals through the intro of Try, which is more American than British, and sits well among the current crop of southern country rockers like Whiskey Myers, Old Dominion and The Marcus King Band, and features some atmospheric Hammond Organ under the solo.

Aaron has a pretty mature vocal delivery style which suggests a few more years of experience than he should probably have, and it fits well with the way the songs express themselves, and Spin The Bottle is the clearest example of this on the album – less blues and more classic pop-rock.

Sun’s Gonna Shine is as different to the previous track as you could get…..a swampy-fuzzed out slide guitar over a slow-rolling rhythm from the bass and drums, harking back to Led Zeppelin or Cream, and a really strong voice delivering the tag-line in a snarling drawl. Along with the opening track, this is one that you will just want to crank up the volume and feel the groove.

Then we find the closing track, a country rock ballad, No Matter What The Cost, which has the folksy feel from the backing vocals and more steel-guitar sound than blues or slide. The honky-tonk piano completes the feel, and is a really mellow way to close the album.

The album was recorded in Los Angeles, with producer Fabrizio Grossi at the desk, bringing his experience from working with the likes of Alice Cooper, Dave Navarro, Slash, Ice-T, George Clinton and Zakk Wylde and he appears to have allowed Aaron to present his sound in as unspoilt a way as possible, using his production knowledge to enhance the rawness of the young bluesman.

Cut Against The Grain Release date 20th Jan 2017.
Cut Against The Grain – Mascot Label Group / Provogue

01. All The Right Moves
02. Down
03. Medicine Man
04. Falling Again
05. Just One Question
06. Against The Grain
07. That’s Not Me
08. Try
09. Spin The Bottle
10. Sun’s Gonna Shine
11. No Matter What The Cost

Aaron Keylock’s full live band:
Aaron Keylock – Guitar/Vocals
Jordan Maycock – Bass
Sonny Miller Greaves – Drums

Annie Jonsson Publicity