AUDIO JUNKIE: A proper rock n' roll salute

Published August 17, 2018, 9:19 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

A new, blues-based rock & roll record we can all sink our teeth into is out.

Rich Robinson, John Hogg and Marc Ford (Photos from official Magpie Salute Facebook page) /
Rich Robinson, John Hogg and Marc Ford (Photos from official Magpie Salute Facebook page)

After teasing blues rock aficionados (like me) for months on their Instagram about upcoming material, a good whole year after 2017’s excellent single “Omission” from their eponymous titled live album; the full length debut of The Magpie Salute arrives in 12 tracks collectively titled “High Water I.”

Our excitement comes from the fact that at the core of The Magpie Salute are former members of the much-venerated early ‘90s band, The Black Crowes. More specifically, guitarist-songwriter and singer Rich Robinson, lead guitarist-songwriter Marc Ford, and latter Crowes bassist Sven Pipien. They are alongside keyboardist Matt Slocum, drummer Joe Magistro, and vocalist John Hogg, complete the lineup.

The new record kicks off with a rocker in “Mary The Gypsy.” What we came to expect from this outfit – the warm tone of vintage amps and guitars, the manic scorch of blues and pentatonic solos, and the oomph of a tight-as-a-glove rhythm section – are here. And that goes for the borrowed sounds and elements from classic rock.

For example, folk rock tinged title track “High Water” gets its feel from Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s “Déjà vu.” Ditto for the swampy acoustics of “Open Up” that remind of CSN&Y’s “Woodstock” right down to the harmonies. The Jangly “Walk On Water” sounds very Tom Petty-esque (is that Marc or Rich singing?). And the pedal steel guitar ballad “You Found Me,” takes a bit after The Byrds.

If you miss the sound of The Black Crowes, there’s some of that here as well. The melodic riff that opens “Send Me An Omen” was heard from the Crowes’ “Wiser Time.”

'HIgh Water I' (
‘HIgh Water I’

A nice rock ballad that’s tender one moment and totally jamming the next, “For The Wind” too, has an interesting hammer-on, descending riff that hints ever so slightly at “She Talks To Angels” but quickly morphs into totally something new. “Take It All,” with its Robinson-Ford guitar interplay that at this point, from their long history together, weaves through each other.

While John Hogg’s vocal approach on record at times reminds much of the Crowes’ flamboyant former vocalist Chris Robinson, that’s not to say he’s only approximating. What we mean is that he’s doing a bang-up job as lead vocalist. “Color Blind” is a fast favorite, and Hogg’s musings on mixed race (he’s African-Swedish and grew up in London) is a timely theme in this age of inflamed topics of racism (all around the world) but still very positive.

Lastly, there’s “Sister Moon” – a Hogg / Ford-written tune that sounds different from everything else. It’s a mid-tempo number that sounds grounded in the classics, but new enough that you can say this band is not just about acknowledging their roots but also moving forward.