Rival Sons: Hollow Bones Review

What better way to celebrate the start of summer than with a new Rival Sons record? On June 10, the Long Beach four-piece released Hollow Bones, their fifth full-length album and fourth with Earache Records. We last heard Rival Sons two years ago on Great Western Valkyrie, an album that earned the #8 slot on Blues Rock Review’s Top 20 Albums of 2014 list and was nominated for a 2014 Album of the Year award by Classic Rock Magazine. Great Western Valkyrie seemed to represent a shift for the band: musically, they hit the mark as fervently as they did on Pressure and Time, the 2011 album that set them apart as a band to watch. But Great Western Valkyrie was also different from earlier Rival Sons releases, especially on the heels of 2012’s Head Down, where the clichéd mantras in the album opener “Keep on Swinging” contrasted sharply with the delicate lyrics of “Jordan” and the general intensity of “Until the Sun Comes.” 2014’s album delivered “Electric Man” and “Open My Eyes,” two tracks that are already considered Rival Sons classics, as well as “Destination on Course,” the Scott Holiday-penned sonic trek that took similar exploratory tracks like “Flames of Lanka” and “Manifest Destiny, Pt. 1” (from 2009’s Before the Fire and Head Down, respectively) to a new level. Hollow Bones now emerges as the next phase of the Rival Sons collection, comprised of tracks with driving riffs and combustible rhythms, songs that carry the rock cannon forward musically and lyrically.

When the nine-track Hollow Bones starts with “Hollow Bones, Pt. 1,” it sounds like we as listeners are stepping into a Rival Sons concert in progress. The energy is alive and breathable, driving home the band’s continued appreciation for authenticity during the recording process. The album continues with “Tied Up,” a song that’s a bit cleaner but just as powerful, with that all-out rock vibe that listeners will remember from “Pressure and Time” and “Open My Eyes.” Rival Sons aim to go three for three on “Thundering Voices,” a track with a riff so uncompromising it sounds like Holiday’s guitar is likely to take off on its own. Singer Jay Buchanan reins the power in halfway through, pulling the band in for a breather before Holiday, drummer Michael Miley and bassist Dave Beste catch their second wind.

One of the most pleasurable moments comes when Rival Sons cover “Black Coffee,” a song originally written by Sonny Burke and Paul Francis Webster in 1948. With its bluesy guitar embellishments and lyrics relating the struggles of the working class, “Black Coffee” is a fitting cover for Rival Sons, a candid blues track that they breathe fresh life into.

Rival Sons are at a point where they can experiment in songwriting and trust fans to embrace their work. Not every song in the Rival Sons catalog is outstanding, but they have never released a dud album. Hollow Bones is strong, a clear progression from where Rival Sons left us on Great Western Valkyrie with its own collection of tracks that will likely be remembered as some of the band’s best. Rock fans look to bands like Rival Sons to carry the rock ‘n roll torch forward. It’s a lot of responsibility, but Rival Sons have yet to fall short. The only remaining question is: where will they take us next?

The Review: 9/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Hollow Bones, Pt. 1
– Tied Up
– Thundering Voices
– Fade Out
– Black Coffee

The Big Hit

– Tied Up

Review by Meghan Roos

Buy the album: Amazon

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