MASSY FERGUSON – Great Divides (North & Left NL001)

Great DividesA meat and gravy roots rock bar band powered by driving guitars, fronted by bassist Ethan Anderson and guitarist Adam Monda with Dave Goedde on drums, Massy Ferguson occupy much the same blue-collar Americana territory as Drive By Truckers, The Hold Steady and The Jayhawks. Since their last album, 2016’s Run It Right Into The Wall, they’ve expanded from a trio to a four piece with the addition of keyboardist Fred Slater and Great Divides also sees the return of pedal steel to the sound courtesy of J Kardong.

Again, balladry doesn’t loom large, kicking off in explosive style with ‘Can’t Remember’ with its maelstrom of guitars and pounding drums underpinning a catchy chorus song about how, recently arrived in Seattle, the 21-year-old Anderson met the cocktail waitress he’d end up marrying.

Reining the pace in just a notch, ‘Drop An Atom Bomb On Me’ brings Slater’s keys into focus for a bluesier groove before fellow Seattle vocalist Adra Boo joins them on the military march beat and ringing anthemic stadium guitars of ‘Maybe The Gods’. ‘Rerun’ keeps the energy flowing but is something of a filler before getting to one of the few slow numbers, the intimately sung reminiscences of ‘Saying You Were There’ conjuring Springsteen thoughts before ‘Don’t Give Up On A Friend’ has him reflecting on his teenage years to a number over which the ghosts of Warren Zevon and a few werewolves clearly hover.

The longest cut and something of a musical spin, ‘Momma’s In The Backseat’ stays in teenage memories as it unfolds a cautionary tale finding yourself out on the road at night (“if you’re out after eleven, you’re probably up to no good”) , just over the county line, being tailed and getting into an altercation to a driving chugging bassline, walking beat and semi-spoken verses as Anderson admits “I told her about the fight, but what I wanted to do was wrap myself in that old Star Wars blanket, and go to sleep. But I didn’t say that at the time”.

‘Saddest Man’ comes with a steady metronomic drum beat and pedal steel, the melody line soaring to the chorus skies before ‘Wolf Moon’, the second of the ballads, as, to pedal steel and Slater’s piano, Anderson, now a father, passes the wisdom of the road to his kids, the album ending with ‘They Want That Sound’ that opens with echoes of The Church’s ‘Unguarded Moment’ and launches into what is essentially a rework of the tune to Eddie & The Hot Rods’ ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’.

Brash, punky, rooted in hard won experiences and dues paid in an endless strip of barrooms, they don’t come with any pretentions to reinvent the wheel, just to keep it rolling. Ride with them or get out of the way.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website:

‘Maybe The Gods’ – official video:

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