Any album from the man who to so many is one of the major architects of the New Blues Revolution, is always going to create eager anticipation and intrigue for its unveiling, and Cracking The Code, the fifth album from guitarist, singer, songwriter Stephen Dale Petit is no exception. Soaked in blues flames of various stirring hues and dramatic potency, as well as offering a mischievous wink which only engages the senses and emotions even more, the album is a thrilling and enterprising encounter with plenty to excite blues, rock, and rock ‘n’ roll fans alike.
Hailing from London and taking inspirations from the likes of Mississippi Fred McDowell, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Freddie King, Jeff Beck, Elmore James and many more into his own distinctive creativity, Petit did not take long to draw strong support and acclaim with equally rich success, through his live performances and early albums such as Guitararama and The Crave. Recorded in Nashville with Vance Powell (The Ranconteurs, Buddy Guy, Jars Of Clay), Cracking The Code has all the unique character and style to replicate previous successes and draw many more hearts into his enjoyable energetic sound. The album sees various guests joining up with Petit alongside bassist Sam Odiwe, keyboardist Jon Moody, and drummer Chris Williams. Rolling Stone Mick Taylor and The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney both lend their striking talents to certain songs on the album as do Hubert Sumlin, Dr. John, Chris Barber and more. The result is a refreshing and invigorating collection of tracks which offer adventure and revelry in varied descripts, all combining for what is rather appetising inspired fun.
The first single from the 333 Records released album, Holla starts things off in a vigorous manner, a lone guitar wakening up attention before percussion, beats and smouldering riffs lay a welcoming glaze over the ear ready for the enjoyable vocals of Petit. With the backing vocals of Andy Caine and Angela Brooks dancing around flirtingly beside the frontman, and the guitars of Sumlin and Taylor adding extra fire to the already scintillating scorching of the passions, the track is a virulently contagious stomp of blues clad rock ‘n’ roll. A track which seems to find greater infection with every listen, it is the perfect addictive introduction to the album.
The following Wonder lays down a sultry wash from guitar and keys over the body before the vocals open up their presence with a snarl to their tones and urgency in their power. It is a gentler start than its predecessor though with a more intense and provocative presence as it leads into an equally enthralling encounter realised by striding rhythms and the rapacious intent of the track brewed into a burn of sonic excellence. Dramatic in its invention and seductive in its melodic imagination the song makes for an inspiring nudge upon thoughts and emotions.
Both Get You Off and Hard To Love You continue the heated presence of the album, if without quite matching the heights of their predecessors. The first with the piano of Dr. John bringing emotive hues to the piece late on, is a thrilling agitated rub on the senses with the guitars and bass especially antagonistic yet addictively compelling whilst its successor is an easy to embrace pop rock stroll with an excellent caustically sonic sky and again an almost unruly breath to ensure a magnetic intrigue lays its hands on the imagination.
After the more than decent jazz lit instrumental Approximately Perfect Heartbreak, a track which enters as if it is going to start a riot but evolves swiftly into a slow immersion into sonic lava and evocative aural reflection, the album unveils its highest pinnacle starting with Muzzle. A psychotic web of sounds, sonic entrapment, and discord kissing provocation opens up the track brilliantly; the lure irresistible if sinister as it embraces a dirty growl of swaggering rock ‘n’ roll. A delicious tempest of riveting invention the track is soon matched by Riot City and Shotgun Venus, the first another flaming grudge lilted ride of absorbing ingenuity and devilry with a hint of punk rock to its attitude, and the second a brief glam/hard rock like canter soaking the ears in outstanding and sizzling enterprise and craft.
The start of Slideway is another exceptional trigger for the passions though once into its admittedly enjoyable and impressive stride, the growling adventure is a slight anti-climax after such a great threatening entrance. Nevertheless the song only adds to the pleasure of the album, as do final pair My Friend Bob, a decent country folk saunter with surf rock guitar flames, and the closing Hubert’s Blues, another instrumental which takes the emotions into a shack of blues bred mastery. They conclude an album which has definite peaks but avoids any troughs such it’s accomplished and skilfully envisaged and explored adventure. Cracking the Code is simply a release for anyone who loves melodic rock ‘n’ roll with plenty of passion and inventive fire.
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