SAID I WOULD – 72Blues (Timberyard/Shiny)
No idea what was on the soundtrack to “Natural Born Killers” but it should have been this. Close your eyes and you can picture the principal members of 72Blues, Reggie and Lizzy Ray, cruising the New Mexico back roads, garroting, axing or shot-gunning innocent bystanders and burying the bodies in swamps with “Said I Would” as background music.

Not that the term “background music” stands up because there’s no way you could you have this dirt-caked, bloodied stuff around as mere aural wallpaper. It demands full attention by wailing in your ear with a stale whisky stench on its breath, or hopefully slobbering in your ear and dry-humping your leg until you call the cops with a prime facie case for indecent assault.

Reggie Ray is a Detroiter, soaked in country blues and n’er do well rock and roll and transplanted to Melbourne, who rejoices in throttling his guitar to death in inventive ways. He’s joined by another Motor City expat in Canadian-born Lizzie Ray, a lady thoroughly schooled in the blues who has a large, soulful and cutting vocal with great range and immense presence. They were joined in three studios across two continents (USA and Australia) by a bunch of players including Jonno Guy, Ian Collard and Brian Colechin (Hugo Race and the True Spirit).

One world tour and unquantified line-up changes/sackings later, “Said I Would” has come into the world. And a richer place it is for the birth of this musical bastard, the product of a mind-numbingly drunken union between Delta blues and down-home gospel.

While Oliver Stone may have crossed the line into overkill in his movie, the natural born killers of 72Blues get the dynamics just right. There’s a swing and a heady majesty about the opening title track and “Supper is Waiting” (which follows – now there’s a one-two punch) that makes you sit up and listen. Ian Collard tosses some blistering blues harp around the place like discarded beer bottles, and studio collaborator Occasional organ from Matt Heydon and D.A. Chow adds another layer to the rich soundscape.

So many highlights...“That Just Happened” pits wickedly overdriven bottleneck guitar against a god-bothering creationism rave sampled from an old codger who sounds like the voice-over man for the Jim Beam TV ads. “Home” is a rainswept trip to Melbourne that changes down a gear but retains its edginess, thanks to Lizzie's acrid vocal. “Loneside My Bed” is seven minutes of intensity, a smouldering swagger. But it’s “Not No More” that shuts things down and shoots for epic status in its 10 minute-plus lifespan; An acapella opening gambit is layered and crushed by saw’s edge slide guitar and a big, cantankerous groove, everything falling away in a cascade of glorious dissonance (and the return of the Jim Beam man).

OK, there’s the odd falter along the way. I could do without the experimental distraction of “Harmonium”, and Miss Lizzie almost overplays it on “Lawd, A Lonesome Sorry”, before some balls-out guitar-playing either claws things back or pushes them off the edge (I can’t make up my mind which).

Fresh off the Qantas jumbo jet, a stunned Reggie Ray reportedly worked himself up to despondency when he caught the Beasts of Bourbon in all their sweat-drenched, live majesty. No way could he produce anything as dood as that live, he thought. He also cites “Gone” as his first and fave Beasts long-player. Well, “Gone” has its moments (“Saturated”), but is, on the whole, the patchy mongrel in the Beasts litter. “Said I Would” might be markedly less deranged but no less intense and a substantially better album.

It’s damned near impossible to make a quantum leap in any new directions when you’re working within the context of the blues - and 72Blues seemingly get part of the way there. By marrying divergent forms of blues-based music on the back of alternately moody and raucous, emotionally-connected playing and startlingly alive production, they’ve come up with a murderously good album that’ll rate with the best of 2005, for sure.
– The Barman