Angel Air 2013
Measuring his life, STRAY man bares his bluesy soul for all to see.
For all their riffy heaviness, cult heroes STRAY have always been a prog band in their heart but, left to his own devices, the group’s guitarist Bromham tends to take his time machine to the rootsy terrain. Del did so on his first solo record, 2004’s "Devil’s Highway", and he picks up the cotton-fields vibe on its follow-up, this album’s title meaning “all the way” which is exactly the point of the songs. They’re personal but at the same time universal: the veteran discloses his family affairs in the warm glow of “Father And Daughter, Mother And Son” and the folk-flecked “Smiling Face” that every parent can relate to, while the familiar situation of “Bills” will bring the smile, albeit sad, to every face as well, whereas “The Ballad of JD” demands an acquired taste.
This paean to a famous whisky’s father brings a quirky twist to the table. Del’s album makes perfect sense if you listen to it from finish to the start, yet in the running order the songs’ upbeat drive – witness those “sla la la’s” in the record’s opener which, despite its billing, ain’t a ballad yet a possessor of an insistent groove – creates quite an inebriating air about it all. There’s a boogie swagger to “World In A Suitcase” and an organ-oiled gospel sway to “Walking Down The Road” (all the way, remember?) rendered easy ‘n’ elegant by the interplay of Bromham’s acoustic, electric, slide and bass guitars and his STRAY sidekick Karl Randall’s skin-kicking, while the title track rolls in an unplugged mode to the countryside. On the harder territory, “What Comes Around” works its hoodoo into the dirty harmonica-rippled swamp and “Words” packs a punch in its mighty vibrato to add sludge to the heady brew and unromantically echo Neil Young’s piece of the same name.
Uncovering social sores has long been the blues, and Bronham’s, foundation, but there’s a genuine compassion in Del’s tending to the women of the night’s toil in “Don’t Throw Your Love Away” that’s heavy and touching on all fronts. “I’m a man you can rely on,” sings the veteran closing it all with “Catch You When You Fall” which, with its infectious riff, would make a perfect opener but here entices the listener to go all the way back where the album begins. A head-swirling journey and a triumph.