Wednesday 30 December 2020

Snowy White and the White Flames - Something on Me (2020)

Country: UK
Style: Blues Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 9 Oct 2020
Sites: Facebook | Official Website | Wikipedia | YouTube

I remember Snowy White from his 1983 hit single, Bird of Paradise, as well as the pair of albums that he made with Thin Lizzy. He was the permanent replacement for Gary Moore (talk about big shoes to fill) and he appeared on Chinatown and Renegade, before giving way to John Sykes. I thought he had spent his time since working with Pink Floyd, with whom he'd been involved before Lizzy. While that's true in large part, as he's a regular part of Roger Waters's band, he's also been releasing rather a heck of a lot of solo material, under various monikers like Snowy White's Blues Agency, Snowy White Blues Project and Snowy White & The White Flames, named for his first solo album.

As you might imagine, this is blues rock in the British style and it's mostly laid back stuff that often reminds of another of his collaborators, Peter Green. The opening track, Something on Me, an almost eight minute epic that doesn't ever overstay its welcome, is one part Peter Green and one part Mark Knopfler, with a few more parts of his own style. It's gorgeous, though it highlights how much better White is as a guitarist than he is as a singer. He has a very pleasant voice, so I'm not complaining, but the result is that absolutely everyone will listen to this for the guitarwork and nobody for the vocals.

It was the next song that confused me and it wasn't the only one. I knew that I recognised something but I couldn't tell what and it drove me nuts for a while. It took me a second listen to figure some of this out and I surprised myself with the revelations. Another Blue Night is just like a Rory Gallagher song, as is the playful I Wish I Could later on, except that they're played with a soft and laid back feel rather than hard and in your face. It's their phrasing that's recognisably Gallagher because he'd never play either of them like this. Like the other nine songs, they're Snowy White compositions, as none of these songs are covers and only one has co-writers.

Another example is Cool Down, which I now realise reminds me of Iggy Pop's The Passenger, should it be slowed down, stripped of all its punk nature and played with a new vocal as a soft blues number. It sounded eerily reminiscent of something on a first listen and now it sounds odd because I've worked out why. It still sounds though and it invokes the same feel that almost everything here does, namely a bitter sweet sort of loss. Hey, it's the blues, so it has to be about loss, but here it's a faded loss from a long time ago, one that we've come to terms with and now sits alongside the good memories before it.

Nothing seems particularly deep lyrically. One of my favourite songs, for example, goes by the name of It's Only the Blues. It's another White composition but I'm sure half the bluesmen out there have written a song called It's Only the Blues and they'll all be as lyrically generic as this one. Guitarwork elevates it, along with a more memorable chorus.

While everything is generic lyrically, I think, not everything is generic musically. Beyond the soaring but polite solos, which are relentlessly enjoyable, the approaches to the theme vary. One of the most interesting songs is Commercial Suicide, an instrumental that starts out with an alt country vibe and grows into an even darker song because of Thomas White really mixing up the drums. Eventually, it's jazzy and exploratory.

The song that might get old Snowy White fans particularly interested, not that they wouldn't enjoy a new hour of his songs, is Whiteflames Chill, because it changes up the personnel. Most of this is done with Rowan Bassett on bass and Thomas White on drums, backing Snowy White on guitar and vocals. However, Whiteflames Chill brings in his old compatriots, Walter Latupeirissa on bass and Juan van Emmerloot on drums, who go back to his 1994 album, Highway to the Sun, as well as keyboardist Max Middleton, who goes back to 1987's That Certain Thing. It's a playful song, namechecking all of them in the friendly lyrics before the liveliest solo on the album. It's still the blues but life is good.

The final song has the most poignant lyrics, because it may be telling us something. White is getting old, not an unusual situation for a bluesman, but he gave up touring in 2019 because of health issues at the age of 71. "One day I will be moving on," he sings here, "like so many gone before." Hopefully, that day won't be any time soon and, touring or not, he'll continue to put out albums this consistent, this long and this often for plenty more years to come.

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