McHALE’S PERMANENT BREW – Lessons From The Darkest Storms… (109 Records)

Lessons From The Darkest StormsWhere does classic blues-rock intersect with traditional folk music? That’s the question I asked myself when I first listened to Lessons From The Darkest Storms…, the second album by McHale’s Permanent Brew. Superficially it doesn’t but you could take any of these songs and rearrange them in a more acoustic style and nobody would raise an eyebrow. Think Michael Chapman and John Martyn. MPB are Paul and Frank McHale (paired guitars and vocals), bassist Stephen Houghton, Simon Lomax on keyboards and drummer Chris Orrell and they are definitely on the way up.

The opener, ‘Out Of Luck’, begins with processed guitars before crashing into the song with organ and drums predominating. The band is really tight with guitars and bass seamlessly laying down a foundation before the solo – probably Frank but I can’t be sure. ‘Dead Magpie’ is another rocker in a similar vein with more than a hint of Chapman. There are nine tracks and most allow time for musical exploration, two weigh in at over seven minutes, the first being ‘Drowning By Numbers’ with gentle rolling guitars taking the spotlight. You can hear how the band’s live shows might develop.

‘Breaking Smile’ opens with acoustic guitar but they’re only teasing. They do pause for breath with the rather lovely ‘Burn’ although they can’t resist a lead guitar flourish. ‘Angel On My Shoulder’ is a slow, brooding song with organ and big guitar chords and ‘Cracks’ is the second epic. Finally, ‘Look Up’ opens with a strummed acoustic guitar verses although there is an implied tension as you anticipate the arrival of the band – except that they don’t appear.

So, where does classic blues-rock intersect with traditional folk music? Certainly the last song on Lessons From The Darkest Storms… could turn up in a folk club although it’s far from traditional but there is something about the album that I rather like despite it being far from our usual fare.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Breaking Smile’ – live:

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