‘Kin hell! This is good stuff! The Bridgend trio first appeared on the DGM radar back in 2015 with the release of their album ‘Soul King Fire’, summed up in one sentence, Roger Daltrey downing a shot of Jager then pushing Dave Grohl out of the way with the words “Here. Let me show you how it’s done”. The kind of album that you might expect from musicians that have been around the scene since the early 90’s; polished, accomplished, and bloody massive. With experience comes a stubbornness of doing it your own way, no-one is going to try and tell these guys what to do after all this time. The end result being a rock album that bucks trends. Sonny Jim aren’t Rival Sons retro, neither do they want to be Alter Bridge or Black Stone Cherry. So the chugging, train like guitars that so many UK bands try to emulate these days are nowhere to be seen… or heard.
‘The White Witch’ opens the album up with a quintessentially British sound that sets the tone for the remaining nine tracks. Vocalist, Jason Donagh harnesses the power and range that has been missing from British rock since Daltrey took his foot off the gas. A natural and unforced vocal performance which begs the question; is Donagh one of the best kept secrets in British music today? ‘Memories And Souvenirs’ brings to mind ‘The Real Me’, one of my favourite ever tracks by The Who. The gentle, mid-pace intro builds into a towering vocal from Donagh that could strip the paint off of Brighton pier. The solos from guitarist Lloyd Jenkins are beautifully understated, and drummer Robbie Brewster batters those skins into submission. As an opening one-two, these babies purr like a finely tuned Rolls Royce engine.
‘Crown Of Thorns’ could be an outtake from a Foo Fighters session, as Brewster out-Hawkins Taylor Hawkins on a slow-burning song that remains in the listener’s psyche some time after. ‘Rearview Mirror’ is similar in vibe. Dark, brooding, and grungy, with a sweeping guitar solo, and another stunning heartfelt vocal performance. ‘Let It Go’ is faster, with a punkish tempo, and a chorus that is spat out with vitriol. Two and a half minutes of sheer adrenaline. ‘Little Miss Valentine’ sees the band changing styles again. There’s no resting on laurels here, as Sonny Jim opt for more of a ‘Cool Britannia’ sound. ‘More Than I Am’ has a Stereophonics feel to it early doors, but then Sonny Jim crash in, and suddenly you forget about their countrymen. The guitar sound plays an important part in the make up of the track, and the solos towards the end stop you in your tracks.
‘Lightning Hunter’ is a short, acoustic instrumental that showcases another aspect of Jenkin’s emotive guitar playing. ‘Wake Up Call’ is huge and anthemic, deserving of heavy rotation on every daytime radio station in the UK. Call me a cynic, but maybe if Sonny Jim were from New York or California, the bigwigs at Radio One would be fawning over them. Too cheery for the hipsters at BBC Radio 6, that’s for sure. ‘Real Life’ ends the album with another change in direction and style, as Sonny Jim go with a smouldering bluesy sound that gets bigger with each listen. A slow tempo with a sultry guitar sound from Jenkins that rounds the album out in fine style.
‘M.A.D’ is proof indeed that lightning can, and does, strike in the same place twice. Lovely stuff indeed.
Available now from Amazon
Review: Dave Stott