After the stark monochrome portrait which adorned his first album Come On In, Chris Comper (AKA Prinz Grizzley) has elected this time for a vivid riot of red to entice listeners into his follow-up, the sleeve looking as much like a movie poster as a record cover. It perhaps indicates a greater confidence in himself as since releasing Come On In, Prinz Grizzley have played countless festivals and completed a lengthy European tour with Seasick Steve. On his travels, Comper bumped into renowned producer Beau Bedford (best known for his work with Paul Cauthen), a serendipitous moment as it led to Bedford travelling from Nashville to Austria to produce the record. The result is a somewhat brasher effort than the debut release with much more thump in the engine room when required allowing Comper to expand his palette.
Thus there’s a powerful drive in the opening song, You Don’t Know Love, with gritty guitar and pedal steel winding around Comper’s powerful vocals, adding a slight sense of southern soul. Even more so Shovel, a song inspired by Comper’s grandfather’s migrant life, shakes into life with a wonderful junkyard shuffle, snarled lyrics and massed chorus before an insanely fuzzed up pedal steel squeal erupts. It’s a glorious mess of a song drawing equally from chain gang shouts and Tom Waits. It’s followed by the lustrous urban slink of Keep The Fire High which recalls The Stones’ return to form on Emotional Rescue (and keep an ear open for some tremendous percussion towards the end).
Elsewhere, Comper revisits familiar territory. Nothing Left But Scars is a wounded country rock lament and the title song, inspired by his Austrian homeland, has the same languid feel as some on the more introspective numbers from the debut album. Drifting will be a familiar song to anyone who has caught the band live but here it gets a refit as Comper, joined on vocals by Erin Rae, turns it into a powerful and emotive love song with the band soaring as the song progresses. Peeling it right back on Rush Little Man, with only acoustic guitar and lonesome pedal steel accompaniment, Comper offers a grim portrait of an everyman stuck in a dead end job (who might dream of being like Comper on the cover art!). Meanwhile Meet Me At The Pines is classic Grizzley fare with Comper powering into soulful vocal mode as the band strike up a grand country rock vibe.
There are a couple of out and out rompers. Longing For A Fire has a Springsteen like bustle to it although here they manage to rustle up the E Street sound with acoustic instruments. And if one has to be reminded of what a fine live act Comper and his band, The Beargaroos, are, listen to them rush through the skiffled honky tonk of Cutting Wood. Further afield, Magdalena adds a taste of exotica with its whiff of melodramatic melodies and The Salty Life Of Ocean huffs and puffs with a piratical air closing the album with a grand flourish.