Simon Kennedy Band: All Or Nothing

Simon Kennedy Band: “deservedly the recipients of a great deal of praise” Paul Jones

The Simon Kennedy Band has been paying their dues these past five years and have honed themselves into a top-notch, tight trio which has produced a very fine blues rock album with hints of jazz and funk and a decidedly gospel feel. All Or Nothing is the Scotland-based band’s second album and ought to win them many more admirers.

The album has eleven songs, mainly originals and the trio – Simon Kennedy (Vocals / Guitars), Mirek Hodun (Keys/Bass) and Richard Kennedy (Drums) – is joined by three fabulous vocalists in Ellyn Oliver, Unoma Ukudo and Elaine Anderson.

This is not your traditional 12-bar bar blues. It’s blues with a distinctly modern feel, with up to date lyrics and a positive vibe throughout. There is some delicious guitar work here served up by Simon Kennedy who can deliver blistering solos and delicate jazzy somethings. He’s a fine singer too. So, along with the tasteful keyboard work by Mirek Hodun and a wonderfully tight feel throughout, there’s much to enjoy in these 11 tracks of mainly original songs.

The album opens with Jacket Potato, a sophisticated, jazzy instrumental which introduces us to the fine musicianship of the band, leading into Without Love, with its lovely backing vocal harmonies and jazz-laced guitar work. This, along with Broken Man are the two stand-out tracks for me. I loved the laid-back feel of Broken Man, with its infectious guitar opening, the fine organ work and the theme of redemption.

These are songs that have both an immediate appeal and give a growing satisfaction the more you listen. Songs like All or Nothing, with its bluesy piano and gospel backing vocals and Love for the Lonely are both fine melodic songs, while Dead End Blues is a solid rocker which doesn’t suffer from being musically simplistic.

There’s one cover on the album, Beth Hart’s I Got the Spirit of God. Glasgow-based singer-songwriter Ellyn Oliver does a wonderfully accomplished job here, phrasing the lyrics perfectly, giving us a perfectly blues-ridden, joyous anthem, as she goes “hips-shakin’ down the aisle.”

The album closes with On That Morning, a delightful instrumental, with lovely interplay between keyboards and guitar, giving Mirek Hodun free rein on the organ.

Musically sophisticated and hugely enjoyable, this one comes highly recommended.