Album Review: The Communal Well – ‘Under A Western Sky’

1608557685-1France may not be seen as the most obvious hotbed for vintage blues – its better known for its avant-garde jazz and Gallic interpretations of torch songs – but this multi-national Parisian sextet are doing their dangest to change that conception, with a sound based that ploughs a furrow from the country delta sound of Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf through Freddie King to revivalists such as Eric Clapton , Stevie Ray Vaughn and, more latterly, Jack White.

Appropriately,  ‘Under A Western Sky’ kicks off with a modern reinterpretation of Wolf’s ‘Little Red Rooster’:  while lacking the immediate impact of earlier versions, such as the Stones’ classic re-imagining, it’s stripped back, distorted, almost trippy interpretation gives it a very Cajun feel.

The other nine compositions are all original contributions from vocalist/guitarist Roger Hoeberichts, whose style lies somewhere between the aforementioned Freddie King and Jack White, with elements of Dr John and Nick Cave.  The likes of ‘Larceny’ shows off some fine, understated slide work from the frontman, while the use of trumpet on ‘Awakening’ gives it a very Ornette Coleman / Miles Davis jazz feel, coupled with a distorted guitar riff reminiscent of Duane Allman, before tangenting off into a psychedelic trip.

As the album progresses, it takes on a very country feel, such as on ‘Scratch My Back’, while keeping its boots very firmly rooted in the blues, such as with the use of harmonica and the solo on this particular track.

While not offering up anything startlingly original – indeed, it’s a bit ‘safe’ and pedestrian in places (check out the disappointingly staid ‘Poor Boy’, which is just too clinical for its potential mournfulness to be effective) – and nothing that can’t be heard in dozens of blues clubs across the world, this is a decent enough album, played well, with some nicely constructed songs, a few really nice touches, such as the acoustic and brass interplay on ‘California Hills’.

‘Under A Western Sky’ will be released on January 20th.

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