Kim Simmonds And Savoy Brown - The Devil To Pay (2015)
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Blues, Rock | Ruf Records #RUF 1220
Real music is hard to find. If you've ever felt suffocated in the age of fakery and hype, then Savoy Brown's latest album The Devil To Pay is a blast furnace. Driven by classic blues and age-old human truths - but dragged into contemporary relevance by stinging musicianship and modern savvy - Kim Simmonds' new songs have arrived when we need them most. "In many ways," considers the legendary guitarist, "this is the best album I've ever done.
It's fresh and new, and belongs to the twenty-first century". Released on Ruf Records in 2015 - and marking Savoy Brown's 50th year as pack-leaders of the British blues scene - 'The Devil To Pay' was born during a white-knuckle burst of inspiration. "We recorded the album in April 2015 at SubCat Studios in Syracuse, New York," reflects Kim. "I record very fast, within two or three days, and most of the work is done in a single day. "All the work is done in the months before going into the studio. The songwriting, getting the focus right, the rehearsals, the practice, playing the material live." The Devil To Pay represents years of wood shedding in Kim's White Cottage Studio, usually at o'dark thirty in the morning. Between tours, Simmonds is constantly honing his craft, playing guitar, singing, writing songs, recording.
"Once all that is done, it's a simple matter of going into the studio and catching the moment. Exactly like I did, for instance, with Street Corner Talking back in 1971". Throughout, from the finger-twist instrumental "Snakin'" to the shuffle-powered "Watch My Woman", Kim's enduring love-affair with the blues is writ large. "Certainly, the Chicago blues style and the artists I grew up with as a teenager are a primary influence," he notes. "My heart still jumps when I hear good Chicago blues". Kim is one of the few lyric-writers to invest the traditional themes of the blues with modern wit and wisdom. On The Devil To Pay, his pen is every bit as mighty as his plectrum, addressing everything from the bleary repentance of a hangover on "I've Been Drinking" to the reprimand issued to a cheating woman on "Stop Throwing Your Loving Around". "Blues songs are mostly about your feelings," explains Kim. "Love, loneliness, happiness, despair and so forth. All these emotions are somewhere in the songs on the new album.
The song 'The Devil To Pay' is about having to pay for doing wrong in the past. 'Bad Weather Brewing' is about the feeling that something bad is going to happen in your life. 'Grew Up In The Blues' is about someone not having it easy when they were young". With songs that strong, The Devil To Pay is set to continue the upward march of Savoy Brown's acclaimed recent releases, 2011's Voodoo Moon and 2014's Goin' To The Delta. "I'd like people to say it's better than the last studio album," says Kim. "I'm pleased with it. There's always things you would do different, but that's just the way creating something goes. I think it's an album that continues to connect the circle from the band's beginnings to now". Anyone with an appreciation of blues-rock will have been following that circle intently since the start. Rewind to 1965, and Kim was a lynchpin of perhaps the most exciting scene in history, establishing Savoy Brown in the first wave of British blues-boomers, signing to Decca, opening for Cream's first London show at Klooks Kleek and being name-dropped in the same breath as peers like Hendrix (with whom he jammed) and Clapton (who, after Kim and Savoy's tore it up at Klooks Kleel said, "How am I going to follow that?". Even then, the guitarist was emerging as the band's driving force. "I had a vision," he reflects.
"When I started the band back in 1965, the concept was to be a British version of a Chicago blues band. And the exciting thing now is, that vision is still alive". Soon, Savoy Brown had achieved what most British bands never did - success in America - and became a major Stateside draw thanks to their high-energy material and tireless work ethic. "There's way too much said about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll," Kim told Classic Rock magazine. "It's a cliché. We were all extremely hard-working guys. When we came over to America, we were like a little army. I look at that time as being filled with incredible talent". Times changed, of course, and by 1979, Simmonds had moved from a London he no longer recognised - "The punks were everywhere!" - to settle permanently in the States. The Savoy Brown band members came and went, and the music scene shifted around him, but the guitarist stuck thrillingly to his guns and reaped the rewards, performing in iconic venues like Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall and the Fillmore East and West, releasing thirty-odd albums, and later enjoying a well-deserved induction into Hollywood's Rock Walk Of Fame, New York's Blues Hall of Fame, as well as Ontario's Blues Hall of Fame.
A half-century in the making, Kim Simmonds' career has led him all over the world, but every move he's made has always been underpinned by his deep love of the blues. Now, in 2015, on his 45th release and already wood shedding new songs, The Devil To Pay brings that passion thrillingly to the fore, on a release that salutes the past and strides into the future. "Do I have anything left to prove?" considers Kim. "Perhaps not to other people, but to myself, yes. There's always, inside of you, a song not written or a new guitar lick waiting to come out. I still have the drive I had when was I was young, and that keeps the dream going."
01. Ain't Got Nobody [05:29]
02. Bad Weather Brewing [04:32]
03. Grew Up In The Blues [04:08]
04. When Love Goes Wrong [04:05]
05. Oh Rosa [03:37]
06. The Devil To Pay [04:22]
07. Stop Throwing Your Loving Around [04:18]
08. Snakin' [03:58]
09. Got An Awful Feeling [06:00]
10. I've Been Drinking [03:50]
11. Watch My Woman [04:07]
12. Whiskey Headed Baby [04:32]
13. Evil Eye [05:12]
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