01. Gravy Train
Zach Williams : vocals, harp and acoustic guitar,
The ways of the rock are sometimes impenetrable. Nothing forced Zach Williams, under pressure in the middle of a sordid divorce, to go to the concert of Further Down, a lowly band from Arkansas, or to strike up a well-lubricated friendship with the members of the band. The whole pack having taken the habit to meet in his home to make the jam with plenty of guitars, Further Down's members end up realizing that in addition of somewhat in the voice, their new friend has incredible masses of amazing compositions that he had never been able to use in spite of his urges, because he never played in a band ! No sooner said than done, the main part of Further Down makes itself available to the neophyte and begins to tour with him, and it caught on in an incontestable way, signing here both Further Down's death warrant and The Reformation's birth certificate !
After a first promising album (Electric Revival) released in April 2009, our descendants of the ancient French « Louisiane » (the state's name -Arkansas- comes from the french interpretation of a Sioux word, and the state itself is right in the Deep South, bordered by Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Tenessee, Mississipi and Missouri) did it again last year with the subject of this review, fierly named « A Southern Offering ».
When we listen to it, we soon can realize that the guys didn't lie : this album is a real offering. From the first tune (« Gravy Train »), Robby Rigsbee implicates everybody with great gulps of slide, and provokes the duel with Barry Fowler's wah-wah, the whole supplementing a pretty straightforward tune, with hymn refrain. Well, that's a good one, a rough one ! The following tune leans on other roots, less rock'n roll, but offering a curious mixture between acoustic (Zach Williams' guitar and harmo), more stoner metal, sometimes close to current Molly Hatchet, and a feeling quiet close to some Mule's tunes, the whole building a very successful result, also boosted by the bottleneck glissandi of Robby Rigsbee. Having said that, the band knows also how to handle more traditional values like the typically southern ballad, very « skynyrdian » era Ronnie, shows it : « Fools' Moon », embellished by superb « rossingtonian » guitar parts doubled at the third if necessary, just to... When arrived here, the listener is picked up, trapped like a rat : if he likes Southern Rock, he has well understood that something is happening, and it's not a « Moving On » on a moderate tempo, between Blackberry Smoke and Black Crowes that will lead him to switch off. For that matter the following « Picture Perfect » hangs him by the sentimental way, plunging him headfirst in a very melodic ballad with bluesy/gospel whiffs : he's miserable, the poor Zach, extricating himself from his dreams, as usual, and he shares it with us in a very heart-rending way. He will do it again some tunes later with « Motels And Highways », that takes some Bob Seger production accents, including the organ. Not a reason to moan all day long, and the sound of the boogie comes and wakes up the audience, the syncopated beat of « The Fix » mesmerizes in a classical way, but sneakily Zak's harmo and Robby's slide attack underhand our cerebellum. Vicious ! The very crafty and very bouncy « Rock 'N' Roll Me » confirms, setting off Creed Slater's work behind the drums. The bluesy « PO Box And A Postcard » get back in touch with the Blackberry Smoke inspiration, letting glimpse influences on Paul Rodgers' side for a Zach again with a broken heart, and « Wishing Well »... draws from the same sources, on a little more heavy way but the band doesn't exactly know how to finish it, leaving it for the coda to the fluency of a brilliant guitar part eyeing on the shred. Thanks again for this skillful end ! The album ends up with a performance of an again very miserable Zach, standing alone under the starry sky with his acoustic guitar and his dreams after having to much drunk.
This melancholy conclusion shouldn't mislead you, because despite some little mistakes and flaws, this offering-album contains some treasuresand the band, that can and has to make progress to play in the major league, has really all you need to be successfull, including the sound of the South, the formula after which a lot of Europeans are running, and that is very valuable. Very good album !