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Thread: an excellent, song by song review of new Bats Brew album "Trouble"

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    an excellent, song by song review of new Bats Brew album "Trouble"

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    wanted to share this, because of the effort this reviewer went to cover the entire album,
    it's pretty cool!
    and maybe just enough to convince somebody to spring for a disc!

    and for those scared of links, here's the body of the review:

    Bat’s Brew: Trouble – Album Review

    Somewhere in Lake Providence Louisiana, in an outbuilding of the Panola Pepper Corporation®, a literal stone’s throw from the Mississippi border and the mighty river, two Master Pepperists are engaged in a ritual conjuring that can only be described as Bat-Magik. Evoking the demon heat from a citrus mash of habaneros and jalapenos, they toast the Pepper Gods while reciting their final incantations. This Bat’s Brew is their signature blend of maximum fire – but that fire exists beyond heat because what it belies is a passion; a passion that soothes as much as it sears, and one that captures initiates and devotes who season life with its sacred drops till the tongue sparkles as much as the imagination. One such devotee is Louisiana born multi-instrumentalist Rob Gilliland. A Cajun heart, with roots that spread along the gulf, from Texas to the to the glades, Rob Gilliland writes and records music under the band name Bat’s Brew (inspired by his favorite hot-sauce). Rob’s signature sound has swampy Southern roots, but is equally situated in desert vistas or mountain retreats. Nowhere is this more apparent than his 2018 release: Trouble.

    Trouble is a beautiful guitar driven album, and its collection of songs can be enjoyed singularly or as a running narrative that is both personal and universal in theme. Like those spicy peppers grown along the fertile banks of the Mississippi, Rob’s life’s journey is equally peppered. He sings about love & loss, fire & passion, and rebirth & reconciliation with equal parts optimism and lament. His Trouble is an existential journey, and a musical tour-de-force that ultimately celebrates what it means to be alive. His lyrics are deeply personal and accessible, earnest and honest, and inspired by the wisdom of an artist reflecting on his life’s journey so-far while still at the height of his creative powers. Trouble, as a linear narrative, rewards the listener when it’s experienced in real-time, but as my feel for the journey evolved I returned to the album to listen to the songs in random order much like the cut-up poetics of the Beats. Each song stands on its own as a chapter that can be randomly stitched back into the narrative to create new stories and journeys. That’s what makes Trouble such an amazing existential experience in both form and content. Pair this with the music itself, and the quality of production, musicianship, and craft that is world class, and you have an album that rivals any I’ve heard this year. At its heart Trouble is a rock guitar inspired symphony of Southern flavor, and true to Rob’s inspiration is a virtual gumbo of influences ranging from Queen, The Sweet, Ry Cooder, & Jeff Beck, to the more diverse styling of Brand X, and bands Like ELP, Yes, and Heart. This album would be equally at home on the turntable of any classic or prog rock fan (or lover of guitar driven music) or any Southern blues inspired music fan that enjoys a solid boogie with lots of depth.

    Written and recorded over the course of a year, and meticulously demo’d prior to recording, Trouble came into being as current Utah resident Rob Gilliland & Texas based project drummer Brent Dacus swapped tracks back and forth until they had solid beds to work with. Rob then re-recorded the whole album; singing, playing, producing, mixing, and mastering it all himself. Sonically it sounds excellent and it’s very obvious that Rob spent a lot of time gain staging and crafting the mix. It has lots of punch and clarity, but also an incredible dynamic range that is neither exhausting or nor over-loaded. It’s a near perfectly recorded masterpiece with rich guitar tones and lots of swagger and swing, and is a testament to Rob’s creative vision and the years of work and musical training that he has behind him. Rob also designed the cover art, making him a true artist in every sense of the word.

    Opening the album is the appropriately titled “Choices“. It’s a hard driving, fast paced, guitar rocker that recognizes that many of life’s paths are indeed the result of the choices we make. With Gilliland acknowledging that the “choices [he] made were the choices [he] gave” as well, the song is surprisingly introspective. There are some great elements here, including layered vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, and monster monster drums. I hear a sonic kinship to both Jane’s Addiction’s 3 Days and Dave Navarro’s later work with the RHCPs, not just in the guitars but also in the drums and Rob’s use of vocal delay. Drummer Brent Dacus’ superb tom-work on the breakdown really elevates the song onto a different plane and the acoustic guitar arrangement has to be heard with a good set of headphones to really appreciate how rich it is. My only complaint is that at 4 minutes I wanted it to be longer.

    “Take it all” brings back those gorgeous acoustic guitars before the electrics rejoin the party. The bass guitar seems to really drive the song and fits so tonally perfect here that my ears kept zeroing in on it. You can tell this whole song was performed and arranged with great care and attention to detail and lyrically it suggests that trouble is on the horizon. Fans of prog and jazz will hear the lineage here, but rockers will be more than well satisfied. It’s a great song that perfectly balances all of Rob’s influences.

    When “Trouble” hits, the album rises to an entirely new level. The slide guitar and the acoustics; the layered vocals, the rhythms – all create an exotic soundscape that is very native-American and layered with so much depth and swamp that you could imagine it being played on a porch in the bayou or on the open desert plains. I thought of Stevie Salas and his excellent work with Colourcode here. I don’t know if Rob has any blood quantum with Native Americans or cultural roots here, but he certainly displays a deep understanding and sensitivity to the ethnocentric rhythms of the Southern Tribes. This song in particular is so rich in that way that I would find it nearly undeniable that there’s a connection. Trouble (of course) is something we can all relate to. There’s a vocal line that grabbed me immediately and took me back to my first marriage and its collapse over 25 years ago: “She said she’d take me down…“. Oh Boy! – I had one of those too Rob. She told me the same thing to my face and then she nearly did. Later, Rob sings, “she laid [him] right out in the trouble…” I so identified with this song I wanted to call up my old therapist and commiserate. It’s been 25 years but she’s still on retainer for me. If only I’d put my own experiences to song back then I might have saved myself a lot of work.

    “Yesterday” wraps up this chapter in Rob’s narrative by putting a bookend on Trouble and setting the tone for what’s soon to come. This transition is handled really well and made me think of The Who’s Tommy and how they connected various pieces on the album. There’s a tonal feel to the connective tissue that works really well. The guitar figures in the breakdown of “Yesterday” are positively dreamy and hopeful, yet full of a yearning that acknowledges the loss and inner conflict of picking yourself back up after a loss, but equally sets things up really nicely for the next chapter.

    “Long Journey” is that next chapter and serves as the start of the album’s second act; an ode to picking up and moving on with life. In this song Rob Gilliland has captured the energy and feel of a moving train in the classic blues tradition, with the song being equal parts delta blues & southern arena-rock. There are elements of Zeppelin’s Levee here that Jimmy Page would be envious of, and they are embodied with a real unexpected authenticity. And best part of the song, after being setup perfectly by a really cool 6 bar slide guitar transition, is this huge dramatic vocal hook at 2:45 that is so big and awesome that it made me cry out spontaneously the first time I heard it. And the fact that it’s only done once (in this dramatic way) shows some amazing restraint and craft in Rob’s songwriting. Brent Dacus’ pocket play here is so deep it sounds like he and Rob have been playing together for years even though this was their first project together. It was at this point in the album that I really started to appreciate how much cohesion there was here – not only across the sonic spectrum but also in the song-craft and the evolving narrative. I think I was completely sold by Long Journey.

    “Pura Vida” is the falling in love again, hope for the future part of the narrative and it’s fantastic. This song evokes the spirit of Crosby Stills & Nash and features some really beautiful guitar playing that also reminded me of some of the acoustic work of Rob Baker of The Tragically Hip. It’s got some Steve Howe in there too, but without the British eccentricities. There’s a great almost Gypsy Jazz guitar finish that is somewhat reminiscent of Mick Taylor’s work on Can’t You Hear Me Knockin‘ and some of the best acoustic work of Marc Ford & Rich Robinson’s with the Crowes. It’s truly a celebration of life and fittingly existential.

    “Where I Want To Go” is a forward moving song that has some amazing lead work in it that is perfect for the song and really boogies. A modern take on Southern Rock without any of the lyrical tropes, this would play well in a club or a stadium and is a fine example how that genre can thrive in a modern context.

    “Work it Out” immediately evokes big wide open desert sky vistas with a Pink Floydesque introduction and guitar work to follow that is 100% inspired by Roger Fisher of Heart. It also has a couple of monster riffs that make it a perfect 70’s inspired modern rocker, and is one of the tightest songs on the album. Lyrically it makes the case that brings us back to the idea that life is about choices and one of those choices when facing opposition or bumps in the road is to Work It Out!

    With “Melange De La Chauve-Souris” we return to that image of hot-sauce being cooked up in the outbuildings of the Panola Pepper Corporation® for that is indeed the name of the sauce. (Melange De La Chauve-Souris is French for Bat’s Brew). Fully into the album’s 3rd and final act, this song is its own veritable melange of everything that’s come before it; soaring layered vocals, big deep grooves, smoking leads and overdubbed guitar orchestration. Guitar wise you can really hear the Brian May influence on the leads, but the rhythm work has such swing that it conjures up the idea that it could be Eddie Van Halen if he had been raised in the South rather than Pasadena. Brent Dacus’ drums even sound a bit Alex Van Halenish in the Fair Warning era here so how cool is that?

    The album closes with a bonus track (Not part of the digital download) – a wonderful cover of “Bad Moon Rising”. It’s a totally fitting end to the album and my wife (#2 of 20 years and going strong) really fell in love with it. I left the CD in the car she was driving and she kept hitting repeat on our last outing. She only does this with a few songs – the last I remember being Queen’s “Dragon Attack”, so Rob Gilliland & Bat’s Brew gets a big thumbs up from her which worked for me because it meant we could spend more time driving around with the window’s down and Bat’s Brew ‘a cookin’!

    I can’t stress enough how impressed I am with Trouble and Rob Gilliland’s Bat’s Brew. Early this year I decided that it was time to explore more new music for myself and I pledged to seek out music from artists that I had encountered online and in forums that had albums for sale. I wanted to try and replicate how I spent time with albums as a kid, giving the same level of time and attention to them as I did back in the day. I’ve been spinning Trouble for a month now, really digging in and trying to get to know it, and it keeps getting richer and richer for me as an experience. I’d encourage anyone to do the same with albums they purchase. It will help answer the question for many why they don’t seem to connect to music like they did growing up. The answer is more about how we’ve changed the way we listen to music. The quality and the number of amazing artists out there is better than ever – you just have to find them and put in the time getting to know them. Bat’s Brew is definitely a band that you can go all the way with. Trouble it is available for purchase on CDBaby and places like iTunes & Amazon. And if you’re into hot sauce, I’ve been told this stuff is like the elixir of life!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
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    the fruits of my labor of love.....

    many years of reading and studying the music forums, listening to lots of other peoples work, watching vids.....
    learning how to mix, crafting the art of arrangement and song structure....

    i've never aspired to crafting witty pop tunes....
    rather, i've always wanted to write songs that were a bit unique,
    stuff that basically i wanted to hear....
    songs with a definable sound, and style.
    i feel like i've mostly hit that target.

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