Savoy Brown is one of the less heralded acts of the ‘60s British blues scene.
One of the legendary acts to emerge from the ‘60s British blues scene, Savoy Brown is one of the less heralded acts of the era. Still, the group remains alive and alert, having released dozens of albums over the course of half a century. With its latest album, Witchy Feelin’, the band demonstrates that it has more than just longevity on its side, showing off a sustained professionalism and creativity. It isn’t exactly a renaissance piece, but it’s still solid and uncompromising.
Founding member Kim Simmonds, a guitarist, vocalist, keyboardist and harmonica man of considerable talents, remains the driving force, his guitar playing as fluid and inspired as it was on the band’s 1967 debut. As lyricists go, he may never have risen to the heights of Robert Plant, but they drink from the same well. Whatever he doesn’t pour into words easily comes across in his six-string abilities. Witness the title track, four minutes and change of John Lee Hooker and Hubert Sumlin-inspired blues fluidity that seems to crawl from the UK through some upstate New York swamp, cooled and ready to inhabit virtually every corner of your mind until you simply can’t imagine a time when you didn’t know Simmonds’ soul-scorching bends and runs.
There, as on “Vintage Man” and the swampy, understated “Standing in a Doorway,” he sounds like a man striving for something that’s just beyond the reach of his fingers. If his voice is less a barbaric yawp and more the sound of well-worn reason, so be it. It may be more effective this way. “Guitar Slinger” and “Can’t Find Paradise” won’t set the world aflame with their powers of observation or originality. They sometimes sound more like blues-by-the-numbers than revelations from the heart of the Delta. But they don’t need to be more than that. Simmonds still plays well enough that any would-be blues player could learn a thing or two from the guitar parts on the sassy, electrifying “Thunder, Lightning and Rain” or “Why Did You Hoodoo Me?” Such tracks reveal an artist so dedicated to his craft that he never reaches for stock responses and clichéd licks, preferring to express something that erases all the experimental guitar that marched us through the ‘60s and instead asks us to focus on the simple truths we might have heard sitting on some poor sharecropper’s porch in the sweltering Alabama summer.
The closing “Close to Midnight” isn’t just a meditation on the dilemma faced at last call, when you’re trying to decide who is the right person to go home with that night. It’s Simmonds grappling with the truth that there are fewer hours on the clock than there used to be, and that that search for the perfect note can still yield some sweet results. No, the afterglow may not have the arc, the life, it once did but on Witchy Feelin’, he seems to say once again that is no reason to stop trying.