Rush of Blood (Last Records) finds the longtime Nick Lowe and Van Morrison sideman, Geraint Watkins steeped in the mystique and tones of the wide open of the American West of yesteryear. The title track bursts forth with an attitude reminiscent of Rico Bell and ready to accompany a killer to his high noon Spaghetti Western destiny. Darkness lurks beneath the surface of Watkins’ tales as minor tones highlight eerie lyrics. “I get a rush of blood when you’re near” Watkins sings, but the listeners are left wondering is that at good thing or bad. Watkins and Basement Jaxx member Simon Ratcliffe (co-producers) tackle what may be some of Watkins’ finest work.
The record quickly moves from the Western motifs of the title track to a blues inflected slower rocker reminiscent of an early 60’s era Texas roadhouse on Hold Back complete with doo-wop harmony call backs. Heart of Stone shifts moods again embracing a pedal steel guitar and outdoor night sounds that settle the listener in next to a camp fire, but instead of the open prairie the rhythm lulls us into a Caribbean slumber – an unusual mix that works surprisingly well. Middle of the Night picks up the pace for the tale of a promontory rider suffering alone with the quiet of his thoughts, “In the middle of the night I believe I hold you tight and the pain is over…darling believe me there is one thing I know, there is no use you running you got no place to go.” A ukulele sets a deceptively whimsical tone for Heaven Only Knows, a song that probes the disconnect between thoughts, dreams, and actions that all of us strive with. A clarinet highlights this light take on weighty concepts. Watkins’ piano makes its first prominent appearance on “Heaven Only Knows,” as well; it slips in seductively throughout the second half of the track with just the right subtlety born directly out of Watkins’ years of experience.
Another standout track, “On My Mind” sounds as if performed on homemade instruments. The click clack of a rickety mechanism, the gut string tone of the guitar, the junkyard boom stomp, and a bent reed harmonica create a world unto themselves. Just as the listener is fully ensconced in this ragged but right groove, Watkins and company straighten out to a bouncy unhurried rocker – we’re bumping down a country road in a Sunday driver jalopy, but all the pistons are finally firing. Reason to Live mines similar territory as our ride takes a detour to Cajun country with an accordion riding shotgun. “I had the time of my life, and now the story is told, I’ll kick off my shoes…another day over…let’s dance, let’s dance, let’s dance in the moonlight,” Watkins’ sings on Another Day Over. Here again he embraces another piece of the American musical landscape as he embraces his inner Vegas. A slow electric piano driven Sinatra-style lounge tune, Another Day Over and Another Day Over (Reprise) close Rush of Blood with a goodnight kiss and a lullaby.
Once called Dylan’s favorite English piano player, Geraint Watkins picked up more than a few lyrical and musical tips from the masters he has worked with through the years; he puts those tools to good use on Rush of Blood available from the Last Music Company mid-September. If you find yourself in London, England on Sunday September 15th, catch the album release show at Bush Hall. https://www.lastmusic.co.uk/albums/rush-of-blood