Wednesday, February 24, 2016

RICKY WARWICK: "When Patsy Cline Was Crazy & Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues/Hearts On Trees"

Rating: RRRRr
Label: Nuclear Blast UK
Review By: Alan Holloway

It seems like years ago that I chatted to Ricky Warwick about his acoustic album 'Belfast Confetti', because it was years ago, five if you're counting. Even further back, I was him front The Almighty during an ill matched support slot with Gun. Me and Ricky have a history, you see, but it's not a patch on the man's own personal history, something that comes out when he puts together a solo album.

Previously available only to people who had helped fund them through Pledge Music, this double pack delivers an electric album and an acoustic album, with one stuffed full of riffs and the other full of soul. 'When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (& Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues)' is unsurprisingly aimed at those who have enjoyed Ricky's successful tenure with Thin Lizzy/Black Star Riders, and in all honesty is better as a complete album than either of the BSR releases. Opening with the heavy and catchy 'Road To Damascus Street', it's a triumphant, upbeat disc full of rocking classic that will absolutely delight BSR fans, and also Thin Lizzy fans, because Ricky has kept a hint of Lynott in his voice and is singing better than ever before. There's a definite Celtic feel throughout, much like you got from Lizzy when they rocked it up, and a real fist in the air attitude to songs like 'Johnny Ringo's Last Ride' and 'Toffee Town'. There isn't a slow track in the bunch, just ten well paced heavy rock tracks with a keen sense of melody, a hint of melancholy and more hooks than a butcher’s shop. Black Star Riders may get the bigger gigs, but the first half of this duo proves Rocky Warwick has more than enough talent all by himself.

So, on to 'Hearst On Trees', which jettisons all the heavy rock and aggressive guitars in favour of an acoustic guitar and ramps up the melancholy. Much like the aforementioned 'Belfast Confetti' the lyrics here are deeply personal, the result of a man looking at life and trying to make some sense of it, dragging up memories and lying his soul bare. Perhaps the best example of this is 'Tank McCulloch Saturdays', a slow, emotional piece simply about growing up in simpler times. Of additional interest is the album's only cover version, the grisly 'Psycho', originally by Leon Payne. It's a strange, sad tale that fits in well. The tracks on offer show a good mix of upbeat ('Hearts On Trees') and introspective ('Way Too Cold For Snow') with the upbeat songs generally containing lyrics that are at odds with the jaunty tunes. Ultimately, 'Hearst On Trees' is as much of a triumph as it's rowdier counterpart, showing a different but equally talented side to a man who shouted his way through seven Almighty albums.

Each of these albums would be worthy of a rave review, and I hope the fact there is a softer album doesn't put off anyone who has only heard Ricky do the hard stuff. Overall, there's tracks on here for every mood, every music fan, with contributions from several repected musicians, including Stiff Little Fingers vocalist Jake Burns on the upbeat 'Schwaben Redoubt'. This seems like a good time to mention that Ricky and his band The Fighting Hearts will be playing some of the tracks here in support of Stiff Little fingers on their upcoming UK tour. If you've yet to discover Ricky Warwick, there's no better time to do it.

Ricky Warwick Homepage

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