John The Conqueror - John The Conqueror (Alive Naturalsound)
If you can imagine a soulful, bluesy engine room with guitar that has a tone thicker than your great aunt's cankles, you're halfway to getting a grip on the sound John The Conqueror shoots for. Named after a psychotropic herb rather than a dead King of England and with members drawn from the Mississippi Delta, Philadelphia and parts in-between, this power trio hits their intended mark with accuracy, more often than not.
Is there a category of music called Hard-Arse Soul? J the C has nailed it. The 10 tracks here bristle with surly attitude that I'm told living in the City of Brotherly Love can bring on. Pierre Moore's smoothly assured vocal echoes with a tinge of menace. Bass-man Ryan Lynn is the local guy who lays down a fine and fluid rumble, while Pierre's cuzz Michael Gardner delivers the requisite backbeat laden with wrecking ball swing.
"I Just Wanna" builds from handclaps to thundering toms and unsubtle guitar licks. Not bad for openers but it's "Southern Boy" that lets Moore's molten tone out of the bag. Daresay that's what many of you will have come looking for.
"Passing Time" is sparse Delta blues while "Time To Go" strikes one of the album's most soulful poses before jumping off into rockier territory. The dirty funk turf is staked out by "All Alone", a song that puts the power into trio. "Come Come With Me" swells to a peak but it's that big beat that carries the big stick.
"Say What You Want" is as urgent as anything The Black Keys have dropped on an unsuspecting world. Pray that their breakthrough has paved the way for others - like John The Conqueror. The gnarly "Letter Of Intervention" sounds like it could have made college radio back in its heyday with a vague nod to Dinosaur Jr. Then again, I could be imagining things. The lyrics seem to be down to The Last Poets, if you're old enough to remember them. Too bad more rappers don't.
Produced by Pierre Moore who also penned the tunes, it's a raw-sounding record that could still get radio airtime without sounding like it's compromising itself.