Former child six-string prodigy Scott McKeon rises from his 11-year solo album slumber with New Morning, an earthy awakening filled with off the cuff jams and impulsive playing from the core. Named Guitarist magazine’s Young Guitarist of the Year in 1998, McKeon has developed a reputation as one of the UK’s most in-demand guitarists which has seen him work alongside the likes of Eric Clapton, Joe Bonamassa and Doyle Bramhall II, not to mention he has been a member of Sir Tom Jones’ band for the last six years.
This ‘uncooked’ approach appears to have paid dividends with many of the nine cuts here captured in the first take and pushing the music into different territories, strides and styles. McKeon oozes a snarling yet creamy and opulent tone throughout, invoking a sense of that high-coveted ‘60s fuzz sound and indulgent musicianship with aplomb. Recorded at RAK Studios in London with Jeremy Stacey (Sherly Crow/King Crimson) on drums and Rocco Palladino (D’angelo/Tom Misch) on bass, this is a fine example of a collection of stellar musicians feeding off energy and spontaneity to produce a really enjoyable listen.
Coming out of his corner swinging with “Fight No More”, McKeon sparkles with his expressive wah lead playing which gives a gentle nod to the psychedelic clamor of Hendrix. The title track “New Morning” is a passionate slow affair that soars through the break of day, before pianist Ross Stanley switches to the heavy-duty brawn of the Hammond organ on the outstanding “Zapruder” which dawns and culminates with a meaty, crunching riff.
“Fego” reapplies the brakes with more classic, blues drifting that elicits powerful emotion and showcases McKeon’s technical proficiency and impeccable phrasing. The first single “Third Eye Witness” greets the ears with burbles of the trademark ‘SM fuzz’ signature tone and a dirty guitar groove over an offbeat rhythm.
Clocking in at over 54 minutes for just nine tracks, large parts of this record are instrumental, awash with inspired fretwork and intricate backing from the supporting cast. McKeon does call on the crooning vocal talents of Gavin Conder from his own critically acclaimed band Rufus Black for the final two songs – the smiting, gutsy power and funky sticks of “Everything Is Nothing” and the restrained workout of “Take Me Back” which purrs with more tasteful squeezing from that ’62 strat.
Given McKeon’s credentials as a session musician, the presumption is to expect a sound that is very mechanical and deliberate, but New Morning is full of twists, turns, and other dimensions as it has spawned from on-the-spot inspiration. As the man himself said: “New Morning to me is a new start, a new journey about being real and true to yourself. Playing from the heart, not your head.”
The Review: 8.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Fight No More
– Third Eye Witness
– Everything Is Nothing
The Big Hit