Upon hearing Stray Train for the first time, you could be forgiven for thinking that they were another fine band in the ever-bulging bag of new British rock bands bubbling under. Or that they were another fine band coming out of Sweden, Germany, or one of the other hotbeds of “retro rock”, but they are actually from Slovenia, a place more renowned for ending Scotland’s hopes for qualifying for a major football tournament, than it is for producing top quality blues-based hard rock. You might have caught Stray Train when they opened up the Blues Pills/Kadavar European tour last year. You will recognise the music on offer, as its from the same school of hard knocks that the likes of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and UFO helped set up. ‘Blues From Hell’, or to give it it’s full title, ‘Blues From Hell – The Legend of The Courageous Five’, is steeped in everything to love about blues-rock. It has the gritty dual guitars (that are a prerequisite for any self-respecting blues-rock band), the slow burning bluesier number, some heavy keyboards, and a vocalist packing a voice soaked in emotion.
The gentleman in question, Luka Lamut, could be described as the missing link between Jeff Keith from Tesla and Jay Buchanan from Rival Sons. Soul-drenched vocals with a little bit of swagger. Opener ‘Electrified’ packs an almighty punch, as well as possessing a delicious little guitar groove that swings like The Faces at their very best. ‘Heading For The Sun’ quickly follows, and you would be hard pressed not to think of Zeppelin. Musically, it owes a lot to Page et al, the combination of a thick guitar sound and killer drum and bass grooves help make it stand out. Lamut doesn’t sound like Robert Plant, that should be pointed out, and to be fair, he makes no attempt to do so… but that groove though… my oh my! ‘Days Gone’ has a more modern vibe, with some sharp backing vocals and a blistering ‘Shaft’-esque guitar sound. It provides one of the standout moments on the album. A massive heavy keyboard sound heralds the title track, and anything called ‘Blues From Hell’ has to have a slow, nasty vibe. It wouldn’t work if it was a happy, uptempo jaunty little thing, but thankfully, when Stray Train slow things down, they don’t dilute the grit or the emotion. “There’s a special place in Hell for me” sings Lamut, as he talks about washing away his sins. The lush vocal harmonies are effective in painting a atmospheric picture which gets you to thinking what exactly Lamut has to atone for? The slower pace continues with ‘Love Is Just A Breath Away’, which features some beautiful playing that echoes Gary Moore’s style of blues. I also got a hint of the bonafide classic ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, not so much note for note, but similar in the lament styling. ‘Give It Away’ transports the listener back to the MTV days of wall-to-wall cock-rock, while ‘Miracle’ rounds the album off with a little acoustic foot-stomping moment that springs to life with some sweet slide guitar.
‘Blues From Hell’ makes no attempt to re-invent the wheel, but when it sounds this good, does it really need re-inventing?
Available now, more information here.
Review: Dave Stott