I am always about an artist stretching out their musical vision as they progress through a career but sometimes getting back to your roots is good for your soul. That is the way I feel about Danny Lee Blackwell and his Night Beats vehicle on their fifth full-length, Outlaw R&B. The new record follows the 2019 Myth of A Man LP that was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and represented Blackwell’s most polished and clean sounding tracks of his career. Outlaw R&B puts the psych world of Night Beats back into full focus and is his best full collection of songs since 2013’s Sonic Bloom.
Opening track “Stuck In The Morning” sets the album off right with Blackwell coming off like a spirited psychedelic Bob Dylan as the 60ish inspired foot tapper gets in your head with just enough hum and steady beat. “Revolution” takes the album to a higher level with its electric guitar riffs that are dirty and stir up the western desert dust while Blackwell conducts the groove with his vocals. Track after track, Night Beats show off what they have developed over the years and after four albums because this record still has the sharp feel of the Auerbach album but with more sprinkles of fuzz and garage that fill their earliest outings. The difference is though that Outlaw R&B has a full confidence in its delivery and doesn’t try to overpower you with a dizzy haze but offers the ability for the listener to fully comprehend the musicianship down to every lyric and every chord.
Night Beats are best when they unleash the classic psych guitar on Outlaw R&B. “Thorns” has a fantastic freak out near its ending while “Never Look Back” feels like a 70’s burner with its band call outs and underbelly of rhythm and blues. Then as you almost get to the end of the album, “Cream Johnny” puts a giant exclamation on why this is a psych record at its core. The song includes sirens, distortion, drone jamming, backdrop vocals and layered instruments that go in all directions. It really is a song that takes you to a different plain and its great! Outlaw R&B has highlights around every corner and boils harder with every listen. Night Beats have continued to grow and this record just shows that they have even more to offer moving forward!
Key Tracks: “Revolution” / “Never Look Back” / “Cream Johnny”
Artists With Similar Fire: The Black Angels / Ty Segall / The Murlocs
-Reviewed by Christopher Anthony