Before a single note is heard, City Night defines a vision of urban nightlife as seen through the blues-coated ears of Kim Simmonds. In lieu of sharp angles and precise architecture, the hazy, dripping-with-paint cover suggests an aural onslaught of tones and colors, and the music within lives up to the expectation. Simmonds, Pat DeSalvo (bass) and Garnet Grimm (drums) reload as Savoy Brown in an attempt to reprise 2017s acclaimed Witchy Feelin. The album’s twelve tracks aggressively strip standard blues structures to their core and rebuild them with throbbing rhythm and searing guitar.
“Walking on Hot Stones” cracks open the selection with a symbol crash and a crunchy guitar riff. Simmonds’s tale of a hard-worn life sits behind the sonic deluge that characterizes much of the album. Alternating between gritty and squealy, guitar passages illustrate the song’s message while the rhythm duo provide the pulsing groove. Stepping deeper into this territory, “Don’t Hang Me out to Dry” features the DeSalvo-Grimm tandem leading. Simmonds exploits the freedom they create to lay down choppy and languid musical lines that are both authentic and creative.
“Red Light Mama” continues in this vein. The vocals are direct and worthy, but cannot compete with the fuzz, bluster and fire that emanate from Simmonds. The musical structure is simple, but nonetheless it is the drum signal and ascending bass-lead into a satisfying blues payoff that will encourage repeat listenings. Grimm adds a bit of bongo to muddy-up the already swampy feel of “Conjure Rhythm” and helps to slow down the following “Selfish World.”
Savoy Brown is at its apex when they groove. “Wearing Thin,” the best piece on the album, exemplifies this. The trio burst into the tune’s only disruption and follow with a dark, brooding cadence. Lyrical laments aside, the snaky rhythm is so good that one might think that the tune is a celebration. It is. The tracks that follow are broken up by a mix of punctuated guitar and sneering slide. “Hang in Tough” is a great Bo Diddley send-up. “Ain’t Gonna Worry” closes with serious instrumental breaks.
City Night is not about breaking new musical boundaries, but the songs are strong and the saturated sounds are even better. There are great, genuine moments of blues inspiration peppered throughout the album. Fifty years on, Savoy Brown shows no signs of slowing down, much to the delight of music lovers.
The Review: 8.0/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Red Light Mama
– Conjure Rhythm
– Wearing Thin
– Ain’t Gonna Worry
The Big Hit
– Wearing Thin
Review by Willie Witten