It might be thirty years and more since its release but the James King and the Lonewolves single I Tried/So Alone, has never drifted away too far from the musical landscape here at The RR. With the band coming to a close less than a handful of years later, it is a regular reminder of what might have been and of the potential locked up inside one of the eighties lost opportunities to shine even brighter musically. So it was with surprise and excitement that the band re-emerged a couple of years ago and that the debut album lost to that collapse of the band, was to be released. The original Lost Songs of the Confederacy was recorded with John Cale but as mentioned never saw the like of day, but now ‘mark II’, with re-recorded and re-mastered songs supplemented by new recordings is here and at times it is like the band has never been away.
James King and the Lonewolves emerged in the early eighties in the heart of Glasgow’s music scene and swiftly grabbed attention and support with their feisty and fiery Americana influenced rock ‘n’ roll. The aforementioned single I Tried released via Cubre Libre/Virgin, sparked a wider awareness, certainly grabbing some of us down south. The following Texas Lullaby 12″ EP found acclaim of its own too and with the band signing with Alan Horne’s Swamplands label in 1984, it looked like things were about to break for the band. An ill-fated performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test where their profanities drew countless complaints from viewers led to the label dropping the band after just one single and before the album was unveiled. That in turn added to the turbulence within the quartet which saw it subsequently self-implode.
Skip forward to 2011 though and after a ‘long running feud’, James King and Jake McKechan putting differences aside came together as The Lonewolves for a memorial show for former agent, Alan Mawn. Completed by bassist Nick Clark, guitarist Joe Sullivan, and drummer Corey Little; band and audience saw the chemistry was still ablaze within The Lonewolves and they decided to carry on. Released via Edinburgh’s Stereogram Recordings, Lost Songs of the Confederacy is a bridge to the past, ‘unfinished business to be done’ in the words of King, and spark for the future, and as also shown on the recent Pretty Blue Eyes EP, the band’s sound is just as potent and rebellious as ever.
The album seems to work itself up to its biggest triumphs, the first few songs making an appealing and satisfying persuasion but the real roar and fire in the album coming a little later. In saying that opener Fun Patrol immediately captures ears and imagination, its initial sonic shimmering bringing a lick of the lips before riffs and rhythms huddle in an imposing stance. King’s vocals carry a mature snarl to his still distinctive tones whilst guitars toy with a bluesy colour to their sultry enterprise. It is a pulsating slice of rock pop, bass almost stalking the senses across its imaginative landscape whilst a flame of harmonica simply lifts spirits and passions further.
It is a mighty start to the album which is not quite matched by either Over the Side or Fly Away. The first caresses ears with sixties melodic coaxing initially, its Kinks like smile an engaging persuasion which the shimmering climate of melodies and throaty bass stroll only accentuates. It is a highly magnetic proposition but is missing the indefinable something which lit its predecessor, the same which can be said of its successor. The album’s third song has a riper infectiousness to it, riffs and hooks inescapable bait but again that certain spark fails to materialise to take an enjoyable song into being an inescapable one. The flame of brass and contagious swagger it carries does it no harm though before it makes way for the hazy presence of Bridgeton Summer. Its air is steamy and melodies again sultry, both wrapping inventive climbs of emotion and energy within the transfixing balladry fuelled song. It also just misses those early heights but provides a vein of ingenuity which is exploited to the full as the album suddenly kicks up in the creative gears.
Even Beatles Die dangles sonic bait to straightaway hook ears and thoughts but it is when the punk voracity and intimidating riffs from guitar and bass break-through, that the track becomes a thrilling predator. It has a nagging to it which is as contagious as it is unrelenting whilst the poppier exploits of guitar and hooks simply flirt with seventies rock ‘n’ roll temptation. It is a treat of a romp setting up the richer blues hued strains of While I Can. With a jazz blues tease of keys leading into stalking bass lures and aligning riff and vocal growls, the track twists and shouts with an old school rock and R&B devilry to also ignite ears and emotions, though it in turn is just an appetiser for the majesty of (Un)happy Home. Instantly holding a delicious whiff of The Mighty Lemon Drops to its net of melodic enterprise, the song prowls and strides with switching adventure to sculpt a dynamic and insatiable stomp of punk ‘n’ roll tenacity and adventure. Everything about the album’s best track, from growly vocals to spicy riffs, seductive low toned bass to crisp rhythms, is pure contagious persuasion.
Pretty Blue Eyes swiftly keeps the levels flying high with its raw and jangly endeavour, the song seemingly bred from the seeds which early Orange Juice and Josef K employed so well. It is a compelling encounter which rather than grab the psyche by the collar slowly burns its way into causing its subsequent arousal. Igniting an instant reaction is no problem for Texas Lullaby though, the track from its tantalising melody washed jangle brewing up and growing into an impossibly addictive and irresistible chorus. At that moment there is a pungently healthy Skids air to the song but a flavour soon transformed into a Lonewolves tapestry of emotion and lingering persuasion for another massive peak to the increasingly impressing album.
Lost Songs of the Confederacy is brought to a close by the gentle melodic stroking of A Step Away from Home, a strongly evocative and pleasing prospect but another not quite equipped to match songs like the one before it. Nevertheless it still leaves ears content and pleasure full as it brings a ‘lost son’ of an album home into the hearts of the band’s fans. This is an album which is much more than a memory trip just for fans though, its daring and inventive drama a certain lure for those unaware of James King and the Lonewolves. It has been a long wait but boy was it worth it for them and us.
Lost Songs of the Confederacy is out via Stereogram Recordings now digitally with a vinyl version available from November 10th. Find out more @ http://www.stereogramrecordings.co.uk/audio/lost-songs-confederacy/
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