High Water II by The Magpie SaluteRelease date: October 18, 2019
Label: Provogue Records
Containing three former members of the Black Crowes – Rich Robinson, Marc Ford, Sven Pipien – it is of no surprise The Magpie Salute are the nearest you are going to get these days to the sound of the legendary Georgians. Last year’s High Water I was designed to make themselves heard; for a hit the ground running kind of impact, and was backed by a heavy touring work ethic. Job kind of done then, as the album entered the U.K official album chart’s top at number 43 and peaked at number 33 in the American Billboard charts.
For their follow up, many of High Water II songs were written at the same early recording sessions at the Dark Horse Studios in Nashville for their aforementioned studio debut, with-the exception of three songs ‘Gimme Something’, ‘Leave It All behind’, and ‘Life Is A landslide.’ In between touring last year they recorded at the Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales. It’s a decision that pays off because High Water II is the sound of a band more at ease with themselves; a laidback stroll and swagger vibe, as they stretch themselves out stylistically. Plus, there is an audible inner conviction that they are indeed hitting all the right notes as a unit.
They open with the lysergic swampy hard rock of ‘Sooner Or Later.’ And it signals the Rich Robinson, Marc Ford partnership – arguably the finest creative era Black Crowes – is once again a cause for celebration. A pairing that are always a pleasure to watch and listen to as they complement each other with that skilful task of making it all look and sound so effortless. If anyone wants further proof of Marc Ford’s abilities then check out his pre-Crowes band The Burning Tree’s self-titled album, which has now pretty much reached the status of an underrated gem.
There is a zesty, infectious swagger to these songs. ‘Gimme Something’ perfects the Rolling Stones crossed with Sly and the Family Stone for a jaunty groove. Just to prove the point there is a self-knowing nod and reference as John Hogg croons “You’ve got to take me higher.” The Sly influence is again displayed with a touch of Brit Mod rock and a nifty bass line by Sven on ‘Leave It All Behind.’
It is a sound of a band very much enjoying themselves which transcends also into a very enjoyable listening experience. The horns blasted inflected chorus in ‘In Here’ creates a joyous swell among some very fine accompanying keys by Matt Slocum. The glorious ‘Mother Storm’, the melodic country rock of ‘A Mirror’, and the Allison Krauss assisted country strum of ‘Lost Boy’ are fine examples of skilful song-writing craftsmanship.
Then there is ‘Doesn’t Really Matter,’ as it struts and pouts like the Crowes did in their creative peak with The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. More fine guitar interplay between Marc and Rich, while Matt’s Keys swirl around and the rhythm section of Sven and drummer Joe Magistro mesh it altogether by busily upping the rock a little bit harder.
It was always going to be a tough act to follow for any vocalist as, rightly or wrongly, comparisons were always going to made with the former charismatic Black Crowes vocalist Chris Robinson. But Londoner John Hogg applies his gritty soulful vocals with a tremendous ease and confidence. He cements his place within The Magpie Salute with an unflashy commanding and self-assured performance.
The Magpie Salute might not be pushing the boundaries of classic rock any further, but High Water II is an accomplished fun listen from start to finish. No duff fillers, no misfires, and certainly not worried by musical fashion trends. This is a band who are really starting to cook and they are determined to help you feel good. Amen to that.