Rufus Black

Last Christmas I was lucky enough to catch a couple of gigs by Scott Mckeon’s new band Rufus Black, one of which, at the Thomas Tripp in Lymington I reviewed for this very web site. Since then, local guitar hero Scott has been busy playing the enormo-domes of the world as part of Pontypridd knicker magnet, Tom Jones backing band, (bit of a cheap shot that, as of late Tom has put out some pretty decent, rootsy blues albums). But during the spring and summer the guitarist found time to round up his cohorts, vocalist Gavin Conder (50% of The Kondoors with his partner of twelve years, Jess Greenfield), Ben Jones (guitarist with the house band on The Voice and collaborator with Mary J Blige, Tinie Tempah and Pixie Lott) and the local rhythm section of bassist Leighton Allen and drummer Russ Parker and taken them into Roger Hill Studios and The Village Hall Studios in deepest Dorset to record their debut album, “Rise Up”. On the 18th August the band launched the album at the Brook in Southampton, unfortunately I was out of the country at the time and missed the gig, but I managed to get my grubby mitts on a copy, which I am listening to now as I write this review and a fine thing it is too.

Consisting of ten tracks, “Rise Up” gets off to a good start with two originals, “Shut Up”, a full on rocker that highlights Gavin’s vocal credentials and Scottís guitar pyrotechnics, not sure about the jarring flat chord at the end though and “Make a Move”, a mid-tempo Bad Company inspired slab of blues rock, which allows Gavin to channel Paul Rogers in a gritty display of yelps and shouts over a tight bass and drum pattern and a nifty little chord progression from Ben Jones. For the next song, the Isley Brothers “It’s Your Thing”, the band get all funked up with a near rote version complete with punchy horns. They continue in the same vein with “Still Haven’t Seen You Cry” from the pen of Neil Thomas (who he?). As I mentioned in my review of their gig, Scott has left the raw, grungy blues of “Can’t Take No More” and “Trouble” from his solo career behind and moved into funkier territory, helped in no small way by the band, who groove like a well oiled machine.

Rufus Black

Next they take an unsuspected turn by delving into the songbook of Canadian singer / songwriter The Weekend, with “Can’t Feel My Face”. The original bops along in a poppy, electro modern kind of way, however here the band make it their own, by slowing it down into a pleading, blues ballad, making it a perfect vehicle for Gavin to shine. I maybe pushing the comparisons here a bit, but to my mind his blue eyed soul delivery conjures up the ghost of Stevie Marriott and the aforementioned Paul Rogers, he really is that good. “Get What’s Mine”, is another close copy of an original, this time by Winchester born singer Jon Allen, until I looked him up I had never heard of him before or the song, but itís a good little filler which leads nicely into one of the outstanding tracks on the album. Partly written by Gavin, “Whisky Town” is the longest track here, clocking in at over seven minutes, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome by one second. A subtle guitar intro sets the mood for a gentle vocal which gradually builds in intensity over four minutes until Scott takes over with a tastefully thought out solo. I found a video for the song on Youtube and it had a paltry fifty five hits and two of those were thumbs down, go figure.

Willie Dixon’s “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” maybe a hoary old chestnut, but in the hands of Rufus Black they slightly rearrange the chord structure, add a different riff from the original and consequently turn in a powerful performance with a twist. Live favourite, Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” follows, again with the horns present and correct, just a great song, what else is there to say. To finish we have another original, the title track “Rise Up”, a mid-tempo call to arms with a repeatedly chanted chorus, allowing Scott time to stretch out with backward guitar, wah wah, the full works.

So there you have it, a true representation of Rufus Black in all their glory. If you, like me have reached a certain age where elasticated waistbands seem like a good idea, or you just like old school rock and blues such as Free, Bad Company, Humble Pie and the Black Crowes with a twist of funk and soul, you will not be disappointed. Check ’em out.

Track Listing
Shut Up
Make a Move
Itís Your Thing
Still Haven’t Seen You Cry
Canít Feel My Face
Get What’s Mine
Whisky Town
I Just Wanna Make Love to You
Take Me to the River
Rise Up

Rufus Black are
Scott McKeon: Guitar
Gavin Conder: Vocals
Ben Jones: Guitar
Leighton Allen: Bass
Russ Parker: Drums




Words By John Cherry.

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