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Pitched somewhere between the loose revivalism of Jack White and the groove of Alabama Shakes, Rival Sons possess a chimera-like character: a jazz -trained rhythm section that met at Isaac Hayes’ house, a garage-rock fuzzadelic guitar maestro, and a Blues rooted street singer with the powerful raw delivery of rock and the sensitivity of a Laurel Canyon trip.
Though rooted in the past Rival Sons play with awareness and modernity like they’re calling on inspiration through their roots anew, filtering out more of rock’s overblown past and bringing in call-and-response testaments to truth - In their own words, they “want to give the people the rock and roll they deserve by keeping it honest, visceral, and dangerous”.
Rival Sons’ 2012 3rd album Head Down scuzzy “blues-rock invades Motown’s backbeat to startling effect”, displaying a range of skill from the eerily insightful Jordan to the breathy summer pop stylings of Until The Sun Comes or Wild Animal, and setting the whole thing aflame with the sprawling psychedelic guitar freakout Manifest Destiny Pt.1. All of this emphasizing how American roots music is now grounded in the 60’s notion of blues and soul.
That’s not to say Rival Sons ignore the straight stuff, drummer Miley “channels John Bonham's brute force &Tommy Lee's restless energy” much of Head Down is anchored in fuzzy guitars and soul groove spliced from The Small Faces and The Animals - Rival Sons don’t mess about, but they’re not purists, they’re modern – they splice familiar sounds and forms together but mix them up with the secret ingredient of song-writing skill, that balances story-telling with Scott Holiday’s pugnacious guitar and the beauty of Jay Buchanan’s voice in an explosive reminder that “soul is the key”.
Fizzing with freshness, Head Down honours half a century of classic rock with reverence, respect and the realisation that this music’s still happening, right now. – BBC
Introducing the band in the words of singer Jay Buchanan:
"[Bassist] Robin is an accomplished jazz player, and the guy loves Motown and listens to rap a little too much for my liking. [Drummer] Miley also has deep roots in jazz and Latin percussion as well as rock, and he shares the same birthday as Keith Moon. He'll be the first to tell you that he listens to Steely Dan a little too much for my liking. [Guitarist] Scott is highly influenced by Billy Gibbons, Jeff Beck, and Keith Richards, and he talks about ninjas and muscle cars a little too much for my liking. I whine and complain into a microphone for a living, and I talk to myself a little too much for my liking."
Like Jack White or The Black Keys, Rival Sons see the creative process as a snapshot, only spending less than a month in the studio for each album; writing and recording all live under one roof to keep the process raw. The band bear no special allegiance to the didactic needs of retro-rock, their roots are just that, grounding from which they launch using the creative chemistry and the schooling they all possess to create in the moment, capturing a live feel that thrills and delights in often quite unexpected and exciting ways. Witnessing what a band in tune with each other is really like and knowing that what you hear on record as a 1st or 2nd take still comes second to the electric performance you will see on stage.