“And if you side with fascists, its only dark you see. Sometimes I can’t believe what I read.”
As opening lines go, its right up there.
Those are the very first words on “Paths” and they set the tone, really for what is to come from Cornwall’s finest here.
These are troubled times, goodness me, all you need to do is turn on the news to have enough material for a double album, if you are a songwriter with a social conscience, and on “Paths”, Wille Edwards and the boys are here to make some points.
Not, though, at the expense of the songs themselves. Edwards is a brilliant guitar player and they take influences from all over the place. That is the case here too. There is a bluesy shuffle about “One Way” – the aforementioned opening tune – and a brilliant chorus too, that takes apart foreign policy in the West, with the hook line “Mandela meant it, one way, Mahatma Ghandi said that, one way”.
“Make Love” has a funkier rumble, and takes the John Lennon idea and updates it, while the absolutely brilliant “Victim Of The Night” has hints of Fleetwood Mac and a chorus that you might struggle to forget, the harmony vocals soar, while the solo helps elevate this to some other place.
The way this collection changes pace is quite stunning. “Four Million Days” takes us to some dark, lonely places, together with some string work that wouldn’t be out of place on a Seth Lakeman track, certainly there is the same rugged West Country feel here. Indeed, maybe because they are based a long way from the bright lights, the trio can really express themselves with freedom.
“Chakra” has a light, airy feel and the bass work from Matthew Brooks here is wonderful, but the chorus has its eyes on far bigger prizes. “Keep It On The Down-low”, which follows, is something that former touring partners John Butler Trio would kill to call their own.
Amongst all the risk taking, “Judgement Day” feels like one of the most conventional blues things here, similar, perhaps to the work of Ben Poole, it is a classy affair, while “How Long” shows that in reality there were no boundaries here. Written in the wake of the tragic death of Chris Cornell, its use of pulsing loops and an electro rhythm is reminiscent – to these ears at least – of the type of vibe Morcheeba used to whip up.
Everyone lets their hair down for a visceral and exciting “Find My Way” which has a tribal quality to go along with some heavier guitar, but amongst all of this, there is a real sense that the gorgeous “Watch You Grow”, written after Edwards became a father and with its overtones of a Mark Knopfler solo track is one that is fundamentally important. And as if evidence that this is a band that doesn’t pay heed to modernity was further required, then it is right in “Retribution”. There is a CCR taste here, but one that is done on its own terms, and with a real Blues flourish.
WATB had long been a band I loved, but they were a band too, that everyone had always said “wait till you see them live…..”. I did, when they opened for the legend that is Walter Trout. And, right there, even for half an hour you could see it. You just knew, and I understood what people had meant. They played a couple off “Paths” that night too, and it is an album that captures their live magic better than they’ve done in the past.
We’re truly deep in Bandit country here. The path from Cornwall to everywhere else is about to get well-trodden.