Album Review : Simo – ‘Rise & Shine’

Review by Peter Coates

Another Nashville trio who spends more time on the road than in the studio, performing live, writing on the bus and in dressing rooms, with 215 shows in 2016 supporting their debut album, Let Love Show The Way, SIMO are way more than just a vehicle for the ridiculously talented singer / guitarist JD Simo, whose serious blues chops were showcased in the loud and raucous songs on the first album.

The new release takes those retro blues-rock vibes and throws them in the blender with some 1970’s Stax funk, a little pinch of smoky soul, a chunk of desert-rock and delivers an expanded set of sonic experiences with a centrepiece of raw guitar riffs and lines, and impassioned vocals.

There are passing similarities with the likes of Roots, Alabama Shakes, Black Keys and The Kings of Leon, but just as much from 70’s bands like Cream, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and some of the eclectic Led Zeppelin.

The opening track is a sparse but funky blues guitar / vocal work-out, Return, which has some breathy vocals and harmonies before a tightly-distorted solo that is intertwined with the voice in an unearthly combination.

A complete change of feel with the funked-up beat of Meditation, with the excellent work of drummer Adam Abrashoff brings a crisp beat to the chorus and solo. There is such raw passion and emotion in the vocal delivery which persists through all the tracks on the album. The most commercial song s probably the hard-driving Shine, which has one of the choruses you know you have heard before but can’t pin down. It just has you humming along and stomping your foot right away.

Another bit of retro feel to People Say, with all sorts of wizardry going on in the background – the more you listen to this, the more you hear in the playing.

There is an echo of Isaac Hayes on Don’t Waste Time, with the fuzzed-out reverb and wah wah guitar, and the distorted vocals, before JD Simo wrings some extraordinary sounds from the solo, and Abrashoff provides the glue that sticks the song together.

More soul, but much more traditional, in the slow-burning ballad, I Want Love, which has a lead vocal like Prince doing a Smokey Robinson vocal line over something that starts out as a plaintiff cry for affection, and develops into a huge mash-up of styles, allowing Elad Shapiro to show off on the bass.

The whole band get to show off their musical skills with the psychedelic blues of The Climb which is strictly an instrumental, with some spoken words, and more of the freakish guitar-work, before the opening riff of Light The Candle delivers a raucous modern blues stomper that makes you wonder how three people can make so much noise, and has more than a taste of Hendrix in the playing, in particular in the way the solo keeps building into a more explosive driving rhythm up and through the false ending to the feedback-heavy close.

Another very mellow opening to the soul-blues ballad in Be With You, before the track winds up into a heavy psychedelic middle-section, which segues into an echoing blues solo over the plain bass and drums, until the band erupts again and the listener has their senses enveloped by the sheer scale and intensity of the final couple of minutes of the track. The contrast with The Light could not be more pronounced, being a basic voice and acoustic guitar folk-ballad.

Album-closer, I Pray offers more of the vintage psych-rock vibe under the spoken word vocals, before the chorus slams out the heaviest riff of the album over some off-beat drums, which immediately morphs back into something off a Doors live album as an instrumental solo break that takes us on a 13 minute exploration featuring a bit of jazz-rock, some eastern-rock influences, and the expressive playing of both Shapiro and Abrashoff behind the multiplicity of guitar-styles of the main man. The song returns to a final verse and the massive riff of one last chorus before the abrupt climax…..”I wish you love and peace….Amen”

Track Listing :
1. Return
2. Meditation
3. Shine
4. People Say
5. Don’t Waste Time
6. I Want Love
7. The Climb
8. Light The Candle
9. Be With You
10. The Light
11. I Pray

Release Date – September 15 th 2017

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