Originally released as a limited edition red vinyl album for Record Store Day, this 11-track set, recorded live at Toe Rag Studios is now available on CD. The idea of 4am And Counting was to take some of the more mellow, rootsier tracks off their Severed debut and last year’s As I Fell (not that either of them ever actually let slip the lead and rock out) and present them in a more stripped back setting rather than their more familiar widescreen approach.
As such, the five piece enlisted BJ Cole to provide pedal steel on four numbers, the first, which, as with many tracks, comes with a count in intro, being album opener ‘Tell Me About Your Love’, a Felix Bechtolsheimer song about preparing for death, giving a suitably early hours feel to reflect the album title.
They’re a little funkier for ‘I’d Start A War For You’ on which, here free of synths, Charis Anderson’s bass line provides the backbone, turning to more lazy loping country blues for Welcome Home’ featuring Alabama 3’s Nick Reynolds on harmonica. Anderson again underpins the walking rhythm ‘Blackout’ with a Velvets-like riff, still conjuring thoughts of ‘For What It’s Worth’ but slightly cut back from the original’s running time.
There’s one number here they’ve never previously recorded, a funky rumbling bluesy cover of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s ‘Goin’ Out West’, returning to moodier desert climes on the sparse and edgy feel of The Affair gradually gathering in instrumentation as it progresses in intensity before falling back to just drums and pensive electric guitar.
Two live favourites arrive back to back, organ and bass laying down the slow groove for the mesmeric chug of ‘Valentine’ and (presumably inspired by the name of Welsh metal outfit Bullet For My Valentine) its lyric about destructive jealousy with its bluesy guitar solo followed by ‘Way To Mars’ with Reynolds back on harp for a number that nods to Bechtolsheimer’s withdrawal experiences as, again showcasing guitar, it mixes country and gospel influences.
The last three cuts all come from Severed and all feature Cole, first up being the bluesy organ groove of ‘London Rain followed by the more acoustic country of ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ and finally, again in closing position, as befits the opening line of “it’s all over”, the lonesome resignation of the slow waltz ‘Don’t Look Down echoed in Cole’s weeping steel, one final bluesy guitar solo seeing it out for good measure.
4am And Counting is one for the fans rather than an enticement for new audiences, nevertheless it serves a solid reminder of what a great live band they are and Bechtolsheimer’s ability top pen catchy hook, strong melodies and complex lyrics, delivering them in his distinctive drawl.
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The single, ‘I’d Start A War For You’: