I’m fairly used to the hyperbole that I hear from fans and publicists, and while I always listen intently, I’m also always aware that some bands will just never live up to the hype. Of course, these bands could be the next big thing, so I always always always want it to be a case of discovering someone who will be very big.
Sometimes I will settle for just damn good. And I have to tell you that the band from Santa Barbara, California, Paradise Kings, is damn good. I was tipped off to the band from their publicist, a guy whose opinion I trust, but for whatever reason, I took my sweet time getting around to listening to their first album, Controlled Burn.
I wish I hadn’t. I should have jumped on it as soon as it landed in my inbox. They band is comprised of just four guys: Jeff Gring on guitar; Henry Garrett on vocals; Gordon Jennings on bass; and George Lambert on drums; yet they make themselves sound like they are a much bigger band.
And they rock. I don’t mean they turn in Heavy Metal style numbers, but they definitely have a rock edge to go along with their swing blues and great boogie numbers.
The songwriters of the group are Lambert and Gring and they turn in some solid blues tunes that should satisfy just about every blues rock fan around.
The album kicks off into high gear from the opening track, ’69 Chevy. The song swings, and you can hear the guys having fun with it. When the band is having fun, it means that their audience will most likely be having fun as well. I’m not much of a fan of groups that do everything in the studio with no plans in getting in front of a live audience, but with Paradise Kings, you can tell the group honed their respective chops by playing live. It really makes a difference.
Next up is the blistering blues number, I’d Sing The Blues If I Had ‘Em. This has got some great guitar and Garrett’s vocals have a distinctive growl giving the song a sharp edge. When he lists everything going on in his life, you can tell this boy has really got the blues. Thank goodness, because we got this great song as a result!
Three Strikes has a different style of rhythm. The guitar is choppy and plays with some funk and soul. It sounds like there are some keys added to the music, but I don’t have any extra information. It’s a solid number with a good guitar break and falls more in the blues rock arena than the straight blues of the previous number. Who needs all the extra labels? Just enjoy…
Next up is Slow Down, with a controlled opening and some swinging lyrics. It’s definitely a blues song, and while they have that cool California sound, it would be just at home in any Chicago blues joint. There are definitely some keys in the song, so I’ll need to do a little digging to find out who is playing.
The Kings crank up the funk on Butter Me Up. Okay, I’ve got to see who it is playing those keys. It adds a nice touch to the funk. I had to pause and reach out to the band and they tell me that Chris Ulep played keys on the album. Good player, and a great addition to the band. Speaking of good, guest vocalist Jan Ingram takes over behind the mic and delivers a smoking rendition of the song. It’s impressive to see that the band is bringing in such talented guests on their debut album!
Patience opens up with some slow burning guitar and Ulep’s keys before Garrett takes over with some serious late-night blues vocals. This is one of those songs where the singer just stands behind the mic and pours out his soul to anyone listening. Gring adds some evocative guitar to add spice to the song.
Next up is Poor Me, Poor Me, Pour Me Another Drink. I used to be able to identify with that title, but that’s a story for another day. This is a rocker about a guy sitting at the bar and is telling us everything that’s gone wrong with his life while asking for even more to drink. Yeah, I’ve run into a few of those guys over the years…
The album comes to a close with Money Ain’t My Friend. Many of us can probably identify with those sentiments. This is a live number, recorded in Santa Barbara in front of a raucous crowd. It’s good to hear the energy that the band puts out and the response that the audience gives them in return.
The eight songs on Paradise King’s debut album are strong, and if they are an accurate representation of the kind of show they perform live, then California has another good band gracing their shores. Controlled Burn is a very good debut album and has decent songwriting, good playing, and Garrett has a satisfying voice as well.
I don’t know a whole lot about them apart from what I was able to glean from their music. They don’t have a ton of material out on the web, but you can find out more about them at http://www.paradisekings.net/, where you can also pick up the album. You can also find them on Facebook. Hopefully, they’ll be hitting the road at some point, but for right now, your best bet is to catch them in their own backyard, so if anyone wants to send me a ticket to Santa Barbara, the first drink is on me!