MiG Music 2022
Progressing headlong into the future, resurrected juggernaut of British blues roars through the jagged darkness.
One of the most intense ensembles to emerge in the late ’60s, STEAMHAMMER might be one of the least celebrated – despite delivering four brilliant albums between 1969 and 1972 and fading away, after briefly reimagining their agenda as AXIS, the following year. Guitarist Martin Pugh and bassist Louis Cennamo created the same buzz in ARMAGEDDON, while the other axeman, Martin Quittenton, took their melodicism to Rod Stewart, and nobody could care to revive the old group, what with a few members no longer alive. However, out the blue, the collective returned with “Wailing Again” – its very title a reference to their classic “Junior’s Wailing” which has been cut afresh now as the platter’s triumphant coda, alongside “Twenty Four Hours” and opener “I Wouldn’t Have Thought” which provide a bridge from the past to the present. More so, it manages to recapture the erstwhile magic.
Laid down by Pugh, together with two other veterans of this ensemble – the renowned bass and keyboard player Pete Sears and drummer John Lingwood – and new vocalist Phil Colombatto, it’s picking up where 1970’s "Mountains" left off, yet the band bolster the familiar vibe via contemporary bombast that springs from the organ-and-harmonica combo and acoustic-cum-electric strum. They gradually build momentum before alighting on a mighty groove and resolving tension in the funky grace of “High Low Jick Jack Johnny” which has processed voice unfold wordless harmonies and hauntingly blown lines weave around six-string licks – only the angry roar and riff of “Fool For You” that drag behind the rhythm section restore the strain and refuse to let go even when piano dewdrops sprinkle the shuffle, and the vigorous beats of “Wailing Once Again” propel the collective’s tempo-shifting drift to the folk-informed, dynamically compelling delirium.
Still, “Midnight Blues Train” takes the gloom further down the anxiously throbbing track – away from its Western swampy start and towards Eastern desert with its spectral passages of time, the mirages awash with resonant sadness and spiced with a slider roll – until “Man In The Blue Suede Shoes – Megan’s Song” offers patinated balladry to those willing to savor the ensemble’s instrumental verve, swerve and sweep, and the aforementioned Eddie Boyd around-the-clock staple proposes an unhurried, ivories-driven epic trip to their stylistic home-ground. A totally unexpected comeback tipping a hat to the tradition of the group’s chosen genre, “Wailing Again” is brimful with delights, and it would be great to see this engine ride into the future.