The Lucky Strikes comprise of singer Matt Boulter (guitar and pedal steel) who released a solo album earlier this year (review here), David Giles (organ and piano), and rhythm section Paul Ambrose (bass) and Will Bray (drums), with fiddle, flute and sax courtesy of Toby Shaer. They may come from Southend but their music is firmly rooted in the Southern Americana of acts like Skynrd and the Allmans, albeit with occasional excursions into Neil Young territory, notably so in the guitar work towards the end of Ballad Of The Silver Chain.
Boulter’s plaintive vocals gets their fifth album ‘The Motion and the Moving On’ off in good shape with Homesick, a lament for those hanging in there, built around a steady slow marching drum beat, embellished with a pedal steel solo close. Dramatic twanging guitar and piano intro and punctuate To Be An Actor before the mood shifts to a chugging guitar riff over tumbling chords, the track building to a heady, noisy finale. They’re fond of subverting expectations in this way, Lilac And Soil opening with feedback and discordant sonic clatter only to transform into a muted, strummed acoustic number with haunting echoey vocals, underscored by the mournful steel. A similar low-key approach (sparse piano and hushed rippling acoustic guitar) being taken on the lyrically dark (“I am the poison in your veins making my way to your heart”) Pollution Blues, and Gone Gone, a tale about the death a young boy who “must have bought the fireworks from the chemist and set them off in his soft Essex hands” that closes the album on a simple, almost hymnal unaccompanied refrain.
Elsewhere, the mid-tempo fiddle backed Michael, one of the key tracks, strikes an REM note while the reflective and regret-steeped War Drums marries insistent tribal beat drums and piano, its steady march broken by the soaring chorus and a throaty distorted electric guitar solo. Closer to home, Mother Moore has salty English folk tones intermingled with Boulter’s moody Appalachian banjo while Shaer’s flute colours a mid-section evocative of Jethro Tull progressive folk.
The remaining two numbers are both slow-paced affairs; a work-song gospel about seeking release from earthly trials with organ drone, bottleneck guitar and handclap percussion Carry Me Lord flows organically into the saloon piano backed, slow waltzing Hearts Will No Longer Be Coals with its echoes of The Band, its initial swaying weariness building to a fierce fiddle-driven climax. Motion carried.
The Motion and the Moving On is out now on Harbour Song Records
Album launch party: 25 November at The Railway Hotel, Clifftown Road, SS1 1AJ, SS1 1 Southend-on-Sea