Reviewed by Stephen Pennell ©
A Piece Of The Action, the debut long-player from The SRB, was put together during the first Covid lockdown, aided and abetted by the pristine production of John Rivers at Woodbine Studios, and is an album that neatly captures a kind of ‘Britpop n blues’ groove that for me is the very essence of the band.
There’s no gentle introduction - the title track kicks things off like a starting pistol as the lyrics display the band’s determination to take charge of their own destiny - “it’s you who comes up with the caption for your own image/you decide which way the wind will blow”. The beat goes “on and on, full force like a big steam train” through Legshaker, Acid Boom and the brilliant Bulletbiter. Call To Arms allows us to stop for a breather with some lovely lilting Beatles-esque harmonies and we stay in classic sixties-tinged territory for Well I’m Sorry, which brings to mind happy memories of Steve Marriott in his Packet of Three incarnation. The Fortune Teller is a total joy, reminiscent of the funk-rock magic of Weller’s Holy Man from Wildwood, and Steve Winwood’s English Soul vibe is another influence that the SRB wear proudly on their sleeves.
There are echoes of Dr John casting a voodoo spell on Livin’ With A Zombie, while Rest Easy has a muscular Moseley Shoals feel to it. The album ends on a high with Moving On To Yesterday, an epic, spiritual amalgam of rock and roll and folk and soul, its tender and seductive beginning building up to a fitting, album-closing crescendo that makes you want to listen to the whole set again. Which I have, dozens of times.
Whether depending on or dictating the mood of the track, Sam Rogers’ voice is either a passionate growl or a tender touch and has never sounded better. His guitar work bristles with intent and attack, and a wah-wah pedal is never far away for the funkier moments. He’s no slouch on the keyboards either. Chris Moulton’s JJ Burnell-inspired bass playing and Harry O’Dowd’s powerful drumming drive the tunes to perfection. It makes a refreshing change to hear a substantial body of work from a band that doesn’t try to jump on the latest passing bandwagon, nailing their colours instead to the twin masts of good songs and a level of musicianship that sets the pulse racing.
The SRB have been stalwarts of the live music scene in Birmingham for quite a while, honing their craft and guaranteeing good times whenever and wherever they play. Now they’ve distilled all the excitement and energy of their live performances into a triumphantly authentic and rootsy thrill ride of an album that is a worthy addition to any collection.
A Piece Of The Action by The SRB will be launched at a sold-out Night Owl show in Digbeth on Friday.