Following a year which has witnessed a flurry of musical import into St Andrews, David Hershaw appreciates some homegrown produce on offer with a review of the debut album from the town’s mainstay blues and funk collective – The Blueswater.
When people talk about local music in St Andrews there is only one venue that comes to mind. Since its return, Aikman’s bar has provided us with countless nights of live music, copious amounts of good beer and a few more hangovers than I would like to think about. And, for myself and many others, there are a small number of bands who epitomise the Aikman’s spirit, bands that you would contentedly listen to all night (or at least until the bar had run out of Erdinger). One of these bands are The Blueswater, a group who perform with so much energy that sawdust usually starts falling onto the heads of those sitting in the cellar bar below. An 11 piece act when fully formed, the group’s music draws its influences from old school R&B, blues and funk, which is all hammered home by their raucous rhythm section. This combined with the charisma of frontman Felipe Schrieberg, a man who has spent many a tough night honing his craft at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, leads to a vibrant and dynamic live set. Because of this The Blueswater have quickly become one of the town’s most popular local bands, regularly packing out Aikman’s and fulfilling their own bold claim that they “exist to make you dance”. However, they have now tried their hand at recording a studio album, a potentially difficult task for the group. After all, its easy to be impressed by a band when their singer is performing on top of your table, wiping his brow with your coaster, but recreating it in a studio is a completely different issue. The mission for the band going into this album was simple; “you’ve already made them dance, now make them sit down and listen.”
So how did the quintessential Aikman’s band fair? Well the first two tracks of the album are very impressive indeed. In the opening song “Do it (In a Double Dip Recession)”, the group immediately put a smile on your face by diving head first into the previously untackled genre of fiscally responsible funk. Crucial to the success of this track are the witty lyrics, which turn what might have been quite a standard and predictable song into something altogether more interesting and enjoyable. The song advocates following a simple set of priorities in modern times, which are neatly summarised by Schrieberg when he sings; “forget about the stocks baby, let’s get it on” and “buy my bonds and watch my stock rise”. Economic innuendoes to one side however, the song is a good reflection of the band’s potential. Although they are undoubtedly impressive when playing music based solely around classic blues riffs and retro funk rhythms, they are at their best when they take this well-worn style and try to do something new and unique with it.
This fact is proved no more so by the album’s second track “Should I Be Bad or Should I Be Good”. Not only is it very well written and immediately memorable, this track signifies the only time on the album where we get to hear all the many facets of the band’s sound in one perfectly balanced three and a half minute song. The group come together brilliantly around the bass and drums, while the horn section and backing vocals keep things interesting from start to finish. There is even time for a purposeful guitar solo that has direction and thankfully doesn’t just peter out into overindulgent wailing. And, an immediate sign of a good song if ever there was one, when I first listened to the track on my iPod I subconsciously started tapping along with the drum rhythm on my knees and was glared at by an old woman on the bus.
Other highlights on the album are “Walk The Streets”, a song which fuses together “Hit The Road Jack” with Davey Graham’s “Angi” and then carries you into the realm of hard-hitting Southern Rock, and “Call The Doctor” an exquisitely up tempo track where the band really find their groove. As for the rest of the album, it is a slight disappointment that some of the songs don’t sound quite as developed as others. All of the tracks are pretty solid and have moments of real charm, but the band do tend to relapse into overused blues clichés at times. However, this should not detract from the overall achievement of the album, where the group have really begun to discover their own style. For the most part, they have proved that they can retain their retro influences while also present their songs in a unique and ambitious way, which hopefully opens the door for further releases. And, as an added bonus, I’m pretty sure the album will sound rather marvellous when they play it live at a certain little music pub on Bell Street. After all, listening to them play “Do It (In a Double Dip Recession)” while i dip into a pint of Erdinger sounds pretty ideal to me.
I really recommend that people check the album out, available online completely for free at The Blueswater bandcamp page and on Spotify.