By Martine Ehrenclou
Voodoo Nation by Supersonic Blues Machine drops June 24th via Provogue/Mascot Label Group. If the word ‘superb’ is overused, then so be it. The album is a thundering blast of blues/rock with insightful, sometimes biting lyrics, and a band that just won’t quit. The guests alone are worth your time and include Eric Gales, Charlie Starr, Joe Louis Walker, Ana Popovic, Kirk Fletcher, King Solomon Hicks, Josh Smith and Sonny Landreth. Add to that, ace harmonica player Chris “Leroy” Hansen. The core group of Fabrizio Grossi (bass, producer), Kenny Aronoff (drums) and Kris Barras (vocals, guitar) is a supergroup if there ever was one—add in the star-studded cast of musicians who appear on the album, and you’ve got 12 tracks that pack a wallop.
The almost overwhelming A+ level of musicianship could overshadow the songwriting, which addresses the current state of our society, but if you’re paying attention, it won’t let you escape without at least thinking about what is going on in our world.
In case you aren’t clued into Supersonic Blues Machine, Voodoo Nation is their third studio album and produced by Fabrizio Grossi. He is at the core of this and the band’s previous releases, West of Flushing, South of Frisco, California and Road Chronicles Live! ZZ Top’s Billy F Gibbons became one of the revolving guests that include Steve Lukather, Warren Haynes, Eric Gales, Robben Ford, Chris Duarte and more. British rocker Kris Barras replaced Lance Lopez as singer/guitarist in 2018.
Voodoo Nation Reveals Fabrizio Grossi’s true brilliance as a producer in combination with the talents of the band members and guest artists. It’s a darker album than the group’s previous efforts, harder edged and more rocking than Califonisoul’s West Coast Funkadelic jam vibe. The lyrics and the musical tone are heavier, reflecting heady topics. The album as a whole is a mind blowing sonic experience with flat out great songs.
Opening track “Money” starts Voodoo Nation with a bang. It’s an in-your-face dirty blues rocker with overdriven guitar, stinging riffs, drumming you’d expect from super-drummer Aronoff, expert bass, and a vocalist that rides rocking blues as if he’s done it all his life. Barras fronts his own rock band apart from SSBM. Adding to the power of this track is the ensemble of backing singers that sing in unison, creating a wall of voices, something that appears on most of the tracks. About greed and the lack of respect for others, the guitar sneers and snakes in the mix of textures and effects.
“You and Me” with King Soloman Hicks, is a dark, almost menacing call to arms. “I am standing in the land of the free” sings Hicks and the chorus of vocalists (presumably the musicians themselves), punctuated by Hicks’ visceral guitar riffs that cut and slice. An anthem of sorts, it’s jet-fueled driving rock.
About the ease of falling into temptation when you’re down and out, “8 Ball Lucy” with Louisiana slide master Sonny Landreth, is magical, intensely haunting. Barras sings about deception and the devil claiming that your God is too busy for you.
Voodoo Nation Features some of the most exciting names in blues/rock and the rest of the tracks highlight one right after the other. “Devil at the Doorstep” presents the incredible Eric Gales and at eight minutes, his excellence on guitar won’t come as a surprise to anyone. It’s a heavy, slower rock number with Kris Barras at his best on vocals, wailing about The Devil at the door, singing “I need to know that he’s gone.” The sound of helicopters add to the chilling effect.
In case you’re thinking that Voodoo Nation is an album about the dark side of humanity and society, you’re right in part, but there’s hope and lightness of being too. The wonderful Joe Louis Walker whips up an uplifting mood and nails it with his falsetto vocals on the soul rocker “Is It All,” trading soulful guitar and vocals with Barras. Following is “Do It Again,” a power blues rocker featuring Ana Popovic and her muscular guitar riffs. About deciding not to fight, “I Will Let Go” with Kirk Fletcher is a spiritual resolve to conflict, complimented by his emotional, inimitable guitar style and skills.
The title track “Voodoo Nation” reflects the discontent in society, a great blues rocker with funky grooves. Grossi and Aronoff get some time to shine on this track that moves into a Led Zeppelin feel, and ultimately world music. “All Our Love” with Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr closes the album in fine fashion, ending on a lighter note with an Allman Brothers vibe.
Voodoo Nation is a bold statement with some of the best musicians in the business. It’s all killer, no filler, as they say. Highly recommended.
Pre-order Voodoo Nation Here
Watch “8 Ball Lucy (feat. Sonny Landreth)
Supersonic Blues Machine website