After a couple of listens to the hardcore blues rock of Black River Delta’s third album, Shakin’, you’d likely be surprised to learn that this band doesn’t come from the southern U.S., or even Ohio like the similar sounding Black Keys, but is actually comprised of a quartet from Sweden. The record opens with guns a blazin’, three big, loud, bold blues rock barn-burners – “Burning and Burning,” “Howlin’ Back at You,” and the title track – punchy rhythms, slide guitars, “coming back to you” and taking no prisoners.
The band formed in Malmo, Sweden in 2014 when guitarist Pontus Ohlsson and drummer Erik Nilsson invited vocalist and guitarist Erik Jacobs who was living in Stockholm to get together and jam. The trio released “Devil on the Loose,” in ’16, and followed that up with “Volume II” in ’18, and now have expanded adding Josef Boding on bass. After that trio of loud rockers, they turn to acoustics and Ohlsson’s harmonica for a rootsier sound on “Solitary Man,” the tale of a military man who is left in the end with a “bottle and a faith he never had.” There’s a lot more traditional sounding delta blues in the tradition of R. L. Burnside and Robert Johnson in tracks like “Black Gold,” “Train Back Home,” and “Midnight Train.”
“400 Hours” is more of a ballad with a story of heartbreak and betrayal, nicely supported by a more gentle approach on the slide guitar. But they turn the temperature back up on the single, “California Sun,” an effective rocker that leaves a bit more room to breathe than the three song attack at the front end of the album. So far, Black River Delta has developed a strong sound, imitative of their idols and able to stir up a lot of smoke and thunder with their rollicking approach but have yet to deliver something uniquely original.
Key Tracks: “California Sun” / “Burning and Burning” / “Howlin’ Back At You”
Artists With Similar Fire: The Black Keys / The Black Crowes / Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
-Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb