The coldest month of winter may have just given birth to one of the 2024 hottest blues releases. Let’s set the scene: you’ve come upon a blues bar in Copenhagen’s frigid city centre. The blue notes and suspenseful grooves that beckoned you to enter become clearer and clearer as you make your way in. Sonic Saliva is on stage, moving the crowd with their blend of blues, old-school R&B, and psychedelic rock. The intimate dance floor is alive with the tunes from the band’s self-titled debut album, released on 17. February 2024.

Exploring Sonic Saliva’s sound

The first thing that strikes you is the rich tenor of Irish-born Richard Farrell. Its gruff, sincere clarity takes centre stage on the opening track “Brave and Bold.” The groove is tight and still bears the charm of live recording. Fabian Vang’s guitar stabs complement Lars Emil Riis Madsen’s lush organ and the triplet-based interplay between bass and drums. After the declaratively simple melody hooks you in, Sarah da Silva’s backing vocals complete the chorus, engrossing you in anticipation of the rest of the album.

Captivating Melodies

The second track, “Love and Learn,” grooves soulfully with the addition of catchy guitar riffs and more wonderful harmony work. It’s a heartfelt love song that recalls the 70s era in American music. Sonic Saliva goes back to the time when gospel vocals, blues guitars, and popular grooves would have an equal share in a sonic space that dominated the airwaves of boulevard drives and long summer nights. This song is such a breath of fresh air within the contemporary landscape. I’m tempted to call it my personal favourite of the album, but there are plenty of peaks yet to explore.

Two weeks before the release party at Mojo Blues Bar, the band made its initial statement with the lead single “Surrender Now” and its accompanying music video. This is the first tune of the album to truly focus on blues harmony. Writing blues melodies that feel fresh and still stylistically appropriate is a trick worth looking out for. Farrell delivers this writing feat to the microphone with intensity and poise. It’s a production of delicate balancing acts that pay off well. Oh, and the groove ain’t nothin’ to shake a stick at either!

From Swampy Grooves to Psychedelic Climaxes

The swampy groove of “Underground” sees Pharrell’s bluesy melodies perfectly complemented by Fabian Vang’s guitar phrasing. It recalls the tastefulness of B.B. King and the harmonic flair of Albert Collins. All underscored by the kind of Rhodes piano that seemed to sing a loving tribute to Ray Manzarek’s work on “Riders on the Storm.”

“Don’t Let’Em” features insistent beats and colourful textures that build toward a psychedelic climax. Pharrell’s megaphonic vocals channel the intensity of Roger Waters’ political indignation on Pink Floyd’s classic album, “The Wall.” “Where to Go From Here” builds up a wonderful groove with nice riffing and swelling backing vocals. But it’s the final track, “Reach the Light,” that leaves a lasting impression with its lovingly sparse instrumentation and call/response vocal arrangements. The unconventional form builds up beautifully from the bluesy tension of the initial verses into a climactic, soulful celebration of a brighter future.

A Testament to Blues’ Enduring Relevance

Taken in its totality, this album is a powerful showcase for a promising new band on the Copenhagen blues scene.  Sonic Saliva stands as a reminder of the ongoing relevance of a style of music which, at its heart, has always been grounded in equal parts protest and love. In the old-school spirit of the album, Sonic Saliva is slated to come out as an LP in late April, but until that sunny day, streaming and the stage will be where you will get your blues fix.

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