Pitching heavy white-boy blues recordings must surely be the equivalent of choosing ditch-digging as a profession in 1999. It’s horribly unfashionable to even feign an appreciation for a genre whose only audience is often thought to be little more than antique, pattern-bald, overweight motorcycle gangsters.
The mainstream record industry has availed itself of the idea that no one in their right mind would buy such rock. Its musicians are lumpy or blotchy in some way, like most members of the human race, and look passable only in duffel coats or old suits, not skintight jeans or variations in black vinyl. Lyrically and politically they are viewed as insensitive and unsophisticated boors. Pariahs in every way, such musicians have been banished from the rock and roll racks, which they starred in during the ’70s, to the “blooz” section of the store, always way in the back and administered by an employee hidden from the sight of hip patrons because of a nagging personal hygiene problem.
[Pause for 30 clock ticks to cry in beer and get a refill from refrigerator.]
So it’s indeed heartening when guitarist Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown shows he can still afford to spit in the face of fashion.
Almost 30 years ago, he sacked a great backing band that went on to become Foghat. Then he hired Chicken Shack and made even better records. When they were almost finished, he hired a British comedian named Jackie Lynton to be a front man—which, in case you don’t grasp the stones of it, would be like if Bennie Hill had been asked to sing for the mid-’70s Allman Brothers.
But Kim Simmonds is obviously still the same intense and individual guitarist he was at the beginning of Savoy Brown’s career. Despite The Blues Keep Me Holding On‘s corny title, it is the real deal—mostly one- and two-chord stomps distinguished by simple brutality. “Headline News” grinds the wa-wa under Simmonds’s boot heel while some guy as big as the side of a barn croaks out what was in the newspaper above the fold. There’s a really loud shuffle with a vicious swing courtesy of some drummer fellow roundabout from Texas. And at another point, on “Going Down to Mobile,” the slide guitar oozes and curdles while the guy as big as the side of the barn gives a vocal performance that would fit on any ZZ Top record before the latter adopted mechanization. Turn the album up, A/B it with Savoy’s 1969 Blue Matter: They both sound equally oily.