FILTHY BLUES, ’70s NEW YORK FUNK, AND EERIE STONER PSYCHE VIBES, IT’S THE HEAVY NORTH’S, ‘DELTA SHAKEDOWN’
LIVERPOOL-based blues rockers THE HEAVY NORTH today release ‘Delta Shakedown,’ the eagerly anticipated follow up to last year’s critically acclaimed debut LP, ‘Electric Soul Machine.’
The 10-track album features the singles, ‘Where Are You Now?’ ‘Round Again,’ ‘Give A Little Love,’ and‘Delta Shakedown,’ also released today.
Undeniable there’s a nod in the direction of The Doors, but it’s no more than cursory. This is an album from a group at the height of their powers, leading the UK’s blues renaissance. Opening song ‘Delta Shakedown,’ is as good as anything you’ll hear in a long time, and no disrespect to anyone past, present, or indeed future, there’s plenty out there who could learn so much from what will become one of the albums of the year.
“’Delta Shakedown’ is just a filthy, blues rock song,” said singer Kenny Stuart. “I wanted something with the vibe of The Doors whilst keeping that sleazy, ‘dive bar blues’ sound, and I think we nailed it with this one.”
But with a Mott the Hoople vibe and Bowie-esque chorus, ‘Round Again’ moves the LP away from the blues, into slightly harder, rockier territory.
“It’s a song about being complacent with day-to-day routines whilst longing for a wilder, more carefree time,” adds Stuart. “’Round Again’ is also a bit of a response to the second track, ‘Where Are You Now?’ which was about wondering what people from our past are up to, but this time we’re reflecting on our own circumstances and situations.”
And in a somewhat bold manoeuvre, but one which highlight’s the band’s versatility, ‘I See You, Do You See Me,’ displays shades of King Crimson, with a touch of jazz funk.
“I always thought this track had a Black Sabbath feel to it and it’s very focused around the slow looping guitar riff which I try and shadow with the keys sound,” explains Ste Penn (keys). “We recorded a phaser as well as a Rhodes sound for this one, and it’s definitely one of my favourite tracks from the album.”
Guitarist Jack Birch added, “I perceived it as a stoner, eerie, psyche kind of vibe when I first heard it. I’ve always loved ‘Space to Bakersfield’ by Black Mountain and it made me think of that. My parts on the recording seemed to just come out of the jam really. Jose (Ibanez, guitars/producer) always encourages everyone to just jam along and see what happens when we’re in the studio and I have that to thank for quite a few guitar parts on this album.”
And with, ‘I Couldn’t Love You More,’ Ibanez explains how that song began its development.
“Kenny had the riff, and he suggested the backing singers,” he explained. “I was excited about this as I wanted to create a bit of gospel choir vibe in the chorus with our backing singers Rosalie and Molly. The wah on the guitar gave it that ‘70s New York funk vibe.
“I also love the way me and Jack have a ‘question and answer’ solo on this one. After jamming it in the studio the last part came in as a fast change of pace with a tight guitar part. Great to finish the song like that when playing it live.”
“I think I must have been listening to a lot of Nile Rodgers and CHIC when I wrote ‘I Couldn’t Love You More,”’ adds Stuart. “I was trying to do something a little different and show another string to our bow.”
A song destined to become a real live, tour de force, ‘Don’t Need Money,’ leads us into the beginning of the end of the album.
“The drum tracks are actually from the demo session we did,” said drummer Mark Rice.
“These were done in one take after jamming to the initial riff idea. I intended to come back and re-record it for the final take, but as the track started to come together it didn’t feel like it needed it.”
Meanwhile Andy Horrocks (bass) explains his part in the song’s composition. “I had been doing a lot with arpeggios in my spare time at home. There were four of us in the studio at the time and the guitar chords and melody was being played through the speakers. I began messing about with arpeggios of the chords and settled on a hypnotic variation that occurs throughout the song. This also gives a dramatic feel to the chorus when moving from the hypnotic melodies to the syncopated stabs. Easily one of my favourites to be a part of writing.”
The harmonies and delicate production skills elevate ‘Play it Safe’ to another level, there’s a lot going on here, but nothing is lost, not even the haunting use of the solitary trumpet.
“This song is very special as we have Rosalie and Molly as backing singers and Northern String Quartet, as well as some brass,” adds Ibanez. “It was a joy to record the strings live in the studio.”
“Kenny shared an acoustic demo of ‘Play It Safe’ with me in late 2022 and I knew we needed to add it to the next album. I wanted to hold back a bit on the piano and keys on this one and not make it a piano ballad. I think it was important to include the backing vocals and string quartet on this one which added a new dimension,” explained Penn.
The album bows out with ‘Forever Without You,’ a slow burner which builds to a mighty crescendo, the band’s magnum opus, a song sounding like it was recorded in studio enveloped in a hypnotic, seductive, opium haze.
“When I wrote this song, I’d been listening to David Bowie’s last album ‘Blackstar.’ I was also inspired by the loss of a good friend’s father during COVID. I really tried to put myself in that position which got me thinking about mortality,” said Stuart.
“I came to the conclusion that I’m not actually frightened of dying, but I’m frightened of the thought of never seeing loved ones again. For the last part of the track, I wanted to try and portray the individual responding to their grieving loved ones, as if they’re shouting back.”
“A few of us had been to watch the ‘Brian Jonestown Massacre’ around the time the album was put together. I think that’s what inspired a lot of guitar parts on this song. Some of the lead lines pull from Barry Cadogan a bit too,” adds Birch.
Take a bow Gents, you’ve produced a rocking, mystic, modern-day, blues classic.
The release of ‘Delta Shakedown’ comes six weeks before the band play their biggest headline show to date, at Liverpool’s Camp and Furnace on December 1st where they’ll be performing tracks from both albums accompanied by a string quartet, brass section, and backing singers.
The Heavy North will be joined by special guest, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jay Lewis from iconic Liverpool bands Cast, and The Zutons, who will be performing tracks from his latest solo album ‘Waiting For The World.’
‘Delta Shakedown’ is available on 12” gatefold colour vinyl, CD, all download and streaming platforms, and was recorded, mixed, and produced by Jose Ibanez at 3rd Planet Recording Studio, Liverpool, and mastered by Martin Kuchta at Roughgrain Mastering.
Visit www.theheavynorth.com for more information.