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Review: Rex Brown – ‘Smoke On This’

Rex BrownWhilst not on the same scale of re-invention that President-elect Dave Grohl undertook when he stepped out from behind the drum kit, ex Pantera and Down bassist Rex Brown has nonetheless raised a few eyebrows with his change from four to six strings and his new-found role as vocalist. A ballsy move indeed, but with his rich musical background over the decades, no-one should be surprised to hear that Brown pulls off the change in roles with ease. He brings a genuine warmth to the party and, in places, it’s like one of your buddies putting down his beer and strapping on a guitar. No airs and graces, no pretences, but then again, Brown is Southern. Check out his acoustic version of ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’ on YouTube for an idea of what I mean. 

Considering it’s his first time taking on lead vocals, Brown does a bloody good job, with a gruff voice that sounds like it could tell a tale or two. Opener ‘Lone Rider’ sets the tone of the album with it’s badass guitar licks and tales of highways, 18 wheelers and the archetypal loner imagery… ”you might call it a hard life, but it’s the life for me”. The lead guitar work is snappy and full of life, as are the jackhammer drums. The drum sound on ‘Crossing Lines’ is gonzo, a total cymbal frenzy! More guitar fireworks follow, and the Hammond organ in the background adds some weight. As an opening one-two, these two are peaches. ‘Buried Alive’ is another highlight. A gorgeous acoustic intro leads into Jerry Cantrell sized riffs that drift in and out along with the acoustic guitars. Understated vocals from Brown on a confessional about how he dealt with the tragic death of Dimebag Darrell. ‘Train Song’ has a fantastic chugging guitar sound, as you would expect from a song with ‘Train’ in the title. In places, ‘Get Yourself Alright’ is trippy as hell, but when it’s not all groovy and mellow, it rocks out like a dog with two dicks. ‘Fault Line’ continues with the mellow vibe. ‘What Comes Around…’ is marinated in a Zeppelin-tinged sauce, while ‘Grace’ is light and breezy… Carlos Santana on a 40-a-day habit?

After a few mellower moments, Brown brings the riffs back on ‘So Into You’, which has some neat slide guitar on it. ‘Best Of Me’ is a blend of dreamy Floyd-like guitar, spaced out vocals, that Hammond again, and full on drums. Thrown into a blender and set to maximum speed, the end result is staggering. Ending on the arena-friendly ‘One Of These Days’, this is a genuine surprise of an album. A ballsy move that could have backfired and landed Rex Brown on his ass. Thankfully, it didn’t, and Brown is standing tall, front and centre, in front of a mic stand. No way. Way!

Available now on Steamhammer, more information on the official Rex Brown Facebook

Review – Dave Stott

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