Blues organ is the work colleague you always feel comfortable dumping projects onto. The instrument doesn’t get enough love within the blues rock world despite so many bands featuring it, from the Allman Brothers to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble. But the organ is often heard laboring hard, out of the spotlight, providing low-end support and melody, liberating the other instruments so they can abandon their posts and jam out a little. Or a lot. The BluesBones don’t accept that dynamic, though, and give the organ the respect and attention it deserves on Live on Stage, their concert album.
The BluesBones are a Belgian band with typical blues rock instrumentation, but rocking, even alternative-sounding songs. Singer Nico De Cock has a strong, soulful voice that often pushes against the current of the band in a way that evokes a lot of great 90s rock singers. His voice lacks any kind of vulnerability, but given that it’s a live album, it’s much tougher to find that introspective space in front of a room full of people. Organist Edwin Risbourg has a surprisingly upfront role, his organ runs serving as songs within songs. He comps on the slow tunes, providing bass-heavy gravity, but on the faster songs, he’s everywhere. For someone like me, who loves rock and roll organ, it’s an unexpected treat.
Having said that, one of the album’s strongest tracks is “Sealed Souls,” a slow blues that’s almost spiritual, and which features De Cock practically speaking, rather than singing, over the music. Risbourg’s church organ, given how much sonic bandwidth it takes up, is all over the track. But rather than taking the lead, he provides the song’s frame, which frees up guitarist Stef Paglia to solo throughout the song, buckets of notes flying by, suddenly met by soulful bends, beautiful melody ruling everything.
There are also a fair number of funk-blues songs in the set. “The Witchdoctor” is a tight rhythm, Risbourg’s organ fogging the track like it’s the mirror after a hot shower. But there’s also some trippy, Doors-inspired piano that gives the tune a psychedelic vibe. “Psycho Mind” is a strong groove co-led by Paglia and Risbourg, almost like a drag race that’s going to end over a cliff. There are also some solid rock songs. “Going Down,” an original and not the iconic Freddie King version, has a grungy groove and dark lyrics (“I’ll hunt you / I’ll find you / You’re going down”), brightened by Paglia’s excellent slide work.
Live on Stage features crowd noise, band talk, and quite a few extended jam sections, but other than that, you don’t know it’s a live album. The BluesBones are a tight band and live or recorded, they’re going to neatly rip through their tunes. But the fun of the album is getting to hear Risbourg take off. The band features impressive vocals and guitar, but Risbourg’s organ, which works and plays hard, is something you don’t hear every day.
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– The Witchdoctor
– Going Down
– Psycho Mind
– Sealed Souls
The Big Hit
– Sealed Souls