Another victim of the pandemic, A Different Song was recorded and all set to be revealed to the world back in March with a series of launch gigs. Well, we know what happened to all our best-laid plans back then. Instead, this latest disc from Glasgow’s The Hellfire Club, kind of snuck out in September as the band were fed up waiting for a window of opportunity to play live again.
The Hellfire Club are a fine example of our home-grown bands who fuse elements of American music with their own Celtic inheritance and then shake it up a bit, indeed, on their Bandcamp page they describe the album as Glaswegiana. Fitting then that the album opens with 1984, a fine rabble rouser of a song with hints of New Jersey grease in its grooves and which toys with the idea of Orwell’s Winston and Julia meeting up in Glasgow’s Griffin Bar, an old haunt of the band. There’s a Clemens’ like sax solo in there and horns predominate on several other songs here. Hadn’t Been For You has a Stax like propulsion while Country Blues allows Ivan Marples to wail away like Bobby Keyes as the band stoke away evoking blue eyed country soul music. Meanwhile the massed horns of Autumn Leaves gives the song a huge heft, recalling the manner of Blood Sweat & Tears who were a hybrid of rock and big band sounds.
The lonesome fiddle of Nick Ronan introduces Fragile, leading one to expect a Celtic folk number but instead the song wanders into fine laidback New Orleans territory however the following Roving Eyes certainly has a folky jollity to it as Helen Brown takes front vocals and gets all sassy on her philandering partner. There’s a Tex-Mex lilt to Another Independence Day while Redwood, one of the highlights of the album, allows the band to stretch out somewhat with the keyboards adding a lovely touch of Garth Hudson like magnificence. Close to the end, there’s the finely burnished rockabilly of Red Dresses which zooms down the highway with the verve and oomph of Jace Everett.
It’s an eclectic listen, compounded by the closing song, Morning Train. Here, the band deliver one of those ballads which just twist higher and higher as they progress. With shades of McCartney and Gerry Rafferty, it builds from its simple piano and harmonica intro as the band and harmonies weigh in before climaxing in spiralling guitar and sax solos. It’s quite inspiring.