SIMO are not your average bunch of rock’n’rollers, that’s for sure. Although distinctly retro at times, with a welter of Sixties influences and a jam band capability at their disposal, the Nashville based trio still figure among the more avant-garde exponents of modern blues rock. Don’t buy Rise & Shine expecting to settle down to a session of the same old same old.
The two tracks that bookend the album are indicative of their range. Opener “Return” eases in with clicking fingers that give way to quiet, steady drums and a few flickers of wah-wah guitar. Then JD Simo starts whispering sweet nothings close up to the mic over an arrangement that carries echoes of the Beatles’ “Come Together.”‘ Meanwhile closer “I Pray” is a 13 minute outing with simple and direct spoken lyrics – “I pray for the addict/That they may find the strength to quit” typifying the theme. The vocals rise in intensity over spangly guitar that hints teasingly at “Norwegian Wood,” before heading into a chorus with a hammering riff, and in due course a multi-faceted instrumental section replete with jazzy rhythms from Adam Abrashoff on drums, and Hendrixy “underwater” guitar sounds. I’m guessing it incorporates an element of jamming, but while there’s an electricity to SIMO doing stuff like this live, for me it overstays its welcome by several minutes here.
In between, there are offbeat funky grooves on the likes of “Meditation,” “People Say” and the instrumental “The Climb,” which jabs and moves around snatches of a 1963 speech by JFK – “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.” Meanwhile “Shine” has Elad Shapiro’s throbbing bass line to the fore, and a punchy vocal melody on the verse, before a Black Keys like stomp, swirl and prickle around a catchy soul-pop chorus – just one example of the soul influences evident. In contrast though, ‘The Light’ is a simple slice of hushed acoustic guitar and vocals, akin to the old folk song “In The Pines” recorded by Lead Belly.
SIMO are an intrepid outfit. JD Simo is a dazzling guitarist when he takes the fancy, and his rhythm section amigos can underpin whatever he throws at them. Together they have the musicianship to take things in pretty much any direction they want, and challenge the listener to go with them. See them live, and they’ll make your jaw drop. Meantime, Rise & Shine is an introduction to some of their many faces.
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– I Want Love
– The Climb
– Be With You
The Big Hit
Review by Iain Cameron