The real test however for any band who make their name as a great live act, is can they replicate that atmosphere on record? The answer to that question is a resounding yes!
It is however a fairly subdued start with the jaggedy ‘Bulgine Run‘. Don’t get me wrong – the track has swagger, and is very well played with a decent banjo riff flowing all the way through – but it lacks oomph. It’s an odd one to open with in my opinion – however, bearing in mind what’s to come……could this have been deliberately done to ease the listener in…….
….. because the minute ‘Fire Marengo‘ kicks in – it’s all system go! The pulsating groove that is a real feature through much of this album drives this track – big, bold vocals in true shanty tradition – and again a great banjo hook. This is a head nodder, a foot tapper and captures exactly the bands power that is so important to their live sound.
‘Running Down To Cuba‘ continues in that vein, as does ‘Johnny Come Down To Hilo‘ – a real bluegrass stomp – you really cannot sit still!
Shanty classic ‘Drunken Sailor‘ is given a rockier rendition here – which you’ll never guess from the pleasant guitar intro, until the snare led groove becomes the perfect base for the vocals to sit on. The track slowly builds to a crescendo half way through that soars with effected guitars and drum fills – it’s top quality stuff that literally kicks this iconic track firmly in to the 21st century!
My highlight however is the title track – ‘Brave‘. It’s actually a more downtempo track that instantly reminds me of an early Levellers type of sound. Great vocals with acoustic guitar led accompaniment, decent changes in dynamics through the 4 minute track – and the use of a string section is a surprising but very welcome inclusion – instantly lifting the track to standout level – somewhat of a masterstroke!
I cannot recommend this album strongly enough. I’ve been lucky enough to have seen these guys play many times, and was an admirer of their first album She Rises. This new record does exactly what it needs to do for the band – it steps them up again both musically and in the quality of the production – plus it crucially captures the raw power and enthusiasm that make The Salts so endearing. I hope this album serves them well.
Album available here…
Review by Phil Daniels