There is this almost-romantic view of the blues. It is this idea that blues is about drinking, playing a steady guitar, and singing about sorrow. For the most part that is true, but there is more to it. Blues has a story, one that has to connect, and the best blues has a certain edge to it that makes it a unique telling. In the case of YourEnvy’s newest blues-rock album, Darkside, that edge was very dull. There definitely wasn’t a ‘darkside’ to this album; maybe a ‘mid-tone-side,’ but certainly not dark.
This eleven-track record starts with the typical, blues scale, Stevie Ray Vaughan-inspired track, “Blue Ale.” I have to give it to them; the production on this album is solid, and the instrumentation is tight. Shawn Sherwood is accredited as the music in this two-piece group, and he scores major points for laying down all the instruments, writing and composing the songs, and doing all the production. The problem with this album is the lack of grit that so many artists, like Stevie Ray, have. The production is almost a tad too clean, and the vocals are not the right fit. If you listen to “Pride and Joy,” or George Thorogood’s cover of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” you will hear it: that raw rasp from actually drinking too much, that muddy guitar, and that emotion. In John Lee Hooker’s original you hear a bounce, a funky blues that is so iconic to making the grit live. Your Envy has that bounce, but it isn’t quite dirty enough.
The track “Hotroddin’” has a bouncing beat, a great rhythm, and jamming guitar. It builds up a bit, but then just remains on a plateau when the vocals come. While the instrumentation is the right start to laying the song’s foundation, the vocals just float over it without establishing a real emotional connection, one necessary to make the story heard. You don’t need Thorogood’s deep rasp, but you do need to have a voice that draws the listener in. The best blues, the real blues, has that. Check out one of my favourite tracks by Mississippi Fred McDowell, “Goin’ Down To The River,” to get what I mean by a connection.
This album did have some standout tracks though. Their folk track, “Oceans,” works extremely well. It uses Jethro Tull-style vocals impressively. This is my favourite track. It ties in the vocals, but still keeps the instrumentation at the forefront. This is the direction YourEnvy should push towards as a group, because the result is a steady, acoustic train of rhythm and rock. Clint Gottinger’s vocals are great on this one, and the skill from Sherwood is so good. I just wish the rest of the album took this approach. Their blues-rock tracks fall a bit flat; the country blues-rock lets down tracks like “Oceans,” and “Oceans II.”
YourEnvy has potential. They have a solid and clean start here. They are trying to bring back classic rock, and damn, I hope they’ll succeed. The boys just need to introduce something new to it, make it something we haven’t heard before, and get that ‘darkside’ as hellish and raw as possible. They need to get that edge, the sharp bad-assery that makes blues and classic rock the dark beast it is. Even though Darkside fails to deliver that wicked grit, it is still a solid record and I definitely recommend you keep a look out for them in the future.
Written by Danielle Kenedy
*edited by Kate Erickson