Smoke On This… – Vinyl // CD // DD
Entertainment One – Released – July 28 2017
Reviewed by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr
Rex Brown / Lead vocals, Rhythm guitar , Bass
Christopher Williams / Drums
Lance Harvill / Guitar, collaboration
Peter Keyes / Piano
When I first heard about this record coming out, I had ZERO idea what to expect, what with Rex Brown’s extensive and prolific career that is right around 30+ years along and kickin’, could be anything, right?? Would it be the hyper-power of Pantera, or some countrified shredding like Rebel Meets Rebel with David Allen Coe?? Maybe the stoner grooving of Superjoint Ritual or even the ‘Pepper‘d tone of Down or possibly something closer to the progressive speed of Kill Devil Hill?? My mind was reeling as I hit ‘play’ for the first time on this album…
The familiar click of a Zippo lighter and I hear “Smoke on this…” before being greeted by a power-punch of guitar/bass and cymbal hit hard as opener ‘Lone Rider’ jumped out of my speakers in welcome thunder as Rex‘ voice took form hold with a tale of pure rock-n-roll introspection, complete with guitar solo intact. This is NOT metal as you may have been expecting and Rex himself has said he is not catering to the expectations of anyone, doesn’t give a fuck what anybody says as he is doing this for HIM and if anybody wants to ride along, get on.
‘Crossing Lines’ is a slower tempo’d excursion into how to “Give it all for nothing’ reminding you there is no one else to blame as this bluesy tale flows along with a complexity that is smooth as glass and there is no escaping how the crackling, crunchy voicing lace their fingers into yours as this guitar slinging legend re-introduces himself to you and opens his veins with each song, letting you look through his eyes to get another take on his life experience seasoned perspective in a way he has not offered before. ‘Buried Alive’ is the confessional Rex used, to give us the story of how he dealt with his own loss of Dimebag Darrell and is simply stellar from first note to last, where ‘Train Song’ lets Rex point out that “We all get away underground, so, here we are, now find a way to calm down…” with a tone that lets you know he is not fucking around.
‘Get Yourself Alright’ is an outright pure stoner-feel romp where Rex asks directly, “What are you waiting for?” and will have you wondering the same thing with the multi-layered vocals spinning all around you, showing that the mastery being given in the purest form possible, is indeed just WHAT we have been waiting for, just as ‘What Comes Around’ is an even sharper tale from within the soul of honesty and reflection laced with enough emotion to get the point across clearly, just as ‘Best Of Me’ opens melancholy in feel as we hear of the “Shadows of myself beside me” and the chorus hits with power chords ringing, shifting back to the soft touch, even as a slide guitar rings echoes in the background as you are beckoned to ‘Stop… look round.”
Genre-blurring is something Rex has been doing his whole career and with this album, not only do we get to feel the bombastic, guitar driven swagger of rock-n-roll, but there is southern rock here as with ‘So Into You’ with the double Skynyrd-slide harmonies that make up the body of the backwall, and the surprising yet SO cool funk flavor of ‘Grace’ with it’s jangly 70’s sounding guitar line that is a great song in tones, composition and arrangement and the mix just WORKS on every level.
Standout track from this one for me, if I HAVE to pick one, would be ‘Fault Line’ in that Rex has said that he really ‘found’ his voice with this track and once he had it, he knew he could indeed step out front and made the rest just come together. The reach is well within his grasp and hopefully will lead to much more out of this man that so many of us have known of for so long.
In my opinion, he did what a true virtuoso does by metaphorically opening his veins to pour his very essence into these creations and this record is that deep and personal of a gift as he steps through so many doors to deliver on each track. Saying that his motto these days is to “Shake some shit up”, he has certainly delivered here and says this is about musical freedom and fun and puts forth that he’s got SO MUCH more in him and is quote “Just getting my feet wet” Enquote.
Find this ‘train’ and GET ONBOARD, drag all you know with you onto and witness it in a live setting if you get the chance… keep it LOUD!!
To quote him directly, “You’re only as good as your word, and your word better be good.”