(4 / 5)
In the PR paperwork that accompanies this new live album, Krissy uses a quote written by me in a review of a previous album. The quote: “He sounds like Krissy Matthews with those licks, not a copycat”. Well, I have no reason to change my view after hearing this new live album. My position is unchanged, as they say in the corporate world.
Sticking to that theme, Krissy’s ‘stock’ will rise in value once this little beauty drops in mid-April. Unlike most live albums that are messed about with for ages in the studio post gig (s) and bear little resemblance to what was captured on the stage, after all the overdubs and editing, this has been kept in-tact and is warts and all, as they say.
But I cannot hear many warts. What I do hear is a gifted and uber-creative guitarist who knows exactly what he wants to sound like, and who he is. Transforming from guitarist to artist; singer, songwriter and one of the best guitar players the UK blues scene has produced. Period. The vocals are a lot stronger than the last time I heard Krissy, on his last studio record. But there’s acres more energy, power and attitude in his performance here on stage, and this album captures all of that and more, superbly. The super-tight power trio format really gives his stuff an edge.
It also sounds like he is having a ball, and really enjoying himself, determined to have that big crowd leave on a high and ‘giving it large’ with the word of mouth. Best advertising you can get. Produced by Krissy, and his first live release, it was recorded at the Freak Valley Festival in Siegen, Germany on May 27, 2016.. Krissy makes a promise: “On Freak Valley you get the real deal. No overdubs.”
Krissy on guitar and lead vocals is joined by his regular band of Max Maxwell on drums and backing vocals and bassist Sam Weston, who also sings BVs. A tight little unit with the right to say they put the power into power trio. Lots of chemistry between the three and Krissy gets the freedom to roam on guitar and go where the mood takes him, knowing his two partners in crime will let him back in when he is ready.
Talking about this live recording, Krissy says: “I remember our Freak Valley show very well. It was the first show myself, Sam and Max did as a three piece. It was the first time I performed at a major “stoner rock” festival, and it was the first gig of our 2016 summer festival tour. We walked off stage smiling and had a fabulous time. Over the past twelve years of touring since I was 12, more and more fans have been asking me when I was going to release a live album. I knew it had to be around the corner. When I heard the recording of this show, I knew it was the one.” The three bonus tracks on the album: “Hit The Rock”, “Roadsick Blues” and “Bubbles And The Seven Phones”, were recorded live at one of his favourite venues, Gerd’s Juke Joint in Joldelund, Germany, during Spring 2016.
Originally from Oxford, 24-year-old Matthews has performed at some of Europe’s most iconic music venues and opened for many big names including Joe Bonamassa, Toto, Gregg Allman and Tedeschi Trucks Band. On the strength of hearing him live here, I’d say Mr Matthews could hold his own up there alongside any major band or artist, in a club gig or an arena. Not once does the excitement level drop across these 11 cuts. He can quote me on that too, and the fact that I am not a fan of live albums at all, and have only a handful in my own music collection. One more now!
Opener “Feeling For The Blues” he wrote as a 14-year-old schoolboy, as a rigid finger up to some of the blues purists, who would come up to him at a gig and tell him unless you are 70+ and have lived through hard times, you cannot play the blues. Methinks this album alone disproves that anorak bullshit. Three years later, he penned track three here, “All Night Long”, about the desire to chat up girls all night! S’funny; when he gets to my age, it will take him all night to do what he used to do all night! My back goes out more than I do, these days!!! He worked with legendary producer and Cream songwriter Pete Brown on Krissy’s last studio record, “Scenes From A Moving Window”. He suggested young Krissy cover a Blind Willie McTell song. This is it; “Searching The Desert For The Blues”. Nice job and a good example of an artist really investing in a song they did not write, to make it a fit.
At 13, Krissy got to see BB King in concert in Bournemouth, sat on the front row. He wrote to his manager, agent and concert promoter before the show, in a bid to try and meet his blues hero, but had no luck. So, Krissy wrote a letter with big font, and placed it on the stage next to BB’s chair before he hit the stage. Next thing, he read it out, invited Krissy on stage to say hello, and invited him backstage after the show, for a 20-minute talk about music. A major highlight of Krissy’s life that he will never forget. He wrote “The Soul Will Never Die”, when he got home that night. Lovely story. In 2009, Krissy watched Steve Lukather on a German TV show and he played the Jimi Hendrix song “Freedom”, which Krissy instantly fell in love with. He started playing it live but dropped it from the set until 2016 still playing it in 2017. A good decision.
“Hit The Rock”, was inspired by a close call with tragedy while on tour in Norway in November 2010. It was cold and icy, and the band hit a patch of ice, skidded, crashed the van into a mountain and put it on its side. Krissy was asleep. He remembers waking up on top of the drummer’s head, on broken glass. Fortunately, they hit the mountain and not the opposite side, as that was a steep drop to the water. He pays an emotional tribute to his late friend and tour manager Steve, on “Bubbles And The Seven Phones”, which closes proceedings nicely here.
At only 24-years-old, he has the maturity and “feel” of a player triple his age, and this is actually his sixth album. Six! That is some going for such a young guy. Krissy has performed on two continents and in 21 countries, and toured China in summer 2016.
Who’d have thought back in 1995, when a three-year-old Krissy was called up on stage by his musician Dad, and strummed away to Orbison’s classic, “Pretty Woman”, that just over two decades later, he’d be six albums in and well on the road to a long career. Masses of potential for much bigger things to come, by the sound of it.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’