A mountain of an album from a Blues-Rock legend
Serendipity is a funny thing. A couple of months ago I was at a gig where the (next big thing) guitarist kept going on ever more meandering guitar solos, so I kept asking my friend (in a stage whisper) “Is this Nantucket Sleighride?” That song has been a lifelong template for boring, self-indulgent guitar solos. Then I received a padded envelope through the post from a trusted record label and, lo and behold, what was there? Only Leslie West’s latest solo album!
Out of curiosity I played it in the car the following day and, to say I was pleasantly surprised would be a massive under statement.
STILL CLIMBING, like its predecessor UNUSUAL SUSPECTS, is a brave attempt at reliving past glories with a broad mix of cover versions and some brand new co-writes with West’s wife Jenni. And, it features some legendary friends on a couple of tracks.
The album opens with a nod in the direction of West’s previous incarnation, Mountain – Dying Since I Was Born. It’s a rock song with a scarily capital R! The guitars are as dirty as a rag man’s sock and West’s voice shows no sign of the wear and tear it should after all of these years. Perhaps quitting smoking a few years ago has helped in that direction.
This is followed by the Bluesiest track on STILL CLIMBING, Busted, Disgusted or Dead. It features the mind-boggling skills of Johnny Winter on dueling slide guitars, with West himself playing a ‘Dean Signature guitar with Mountain of Tone humbucking pick-ups plugged into Blackstar Amps’ (for the geeks among you!). The song itself is absolutely smoking!
One song I never expected to hear from Leslie West was Percy Sledge’s When a Man Loves a Woman; but here he plays alongside Johnny Lang, and the pair take it down a very dark Blues-Rock path and virtually make it their own.
My favourite track is a bit of an oddity, as Hatfield or McCoy has all the hallmarks of a classic Country Rock song but Leslie West manages make it as ‘heavy’ as a dump truck going off a cliff. I like it a whole lot.
As I said earlier, this has been a huge and pleasant surprise, especially as the longest track is only five minutes long. He keeps the guitar noodlings to a minimum (less is more!), although I guess everything will double in length when played live.
Released 28th October.