It’s been all about the blues since Hard Stairs released their debut album Libertus Caught in 2016. Together Hortson Longsail (guitar/vocals) and Martin J (drums/percussion/vocals) have been creating their brand of garage blues. It may feel rough around the edges, but you can hear they have a genuine passion for what they do. It is heard throughout their albums Libertus Caught and The Cat’s Meow. Especially with songs like “Stronger”, “Teeth to my Toes”, and “Spoken Blues” showcase how good they sound. If that wasn’t enough, their live albums, Live Garage Blues and Broadcast Blues confirm they are a band that excels further when performing live. Listen to “Tell Me You Love Me”, and you will understand this is true.
Now, Hard Stairs are back with Bigger Blues. They say, “This album is a reflection of our love for the blues and our commitment to creating music that is both authentic and fresh. We hope that our fans will enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed making it”. However, this release differs from their previous work, as it’s not just the two of them. They have added the talents of Octavius Fox (bass guitar), D S#arp (harmonica), Estelle Chamberlain (vocals), and Rob Cann (bass/piano), as well as Colin Hartley, Richard Fox, Gregory Wilson-Copp, Martin J, who combine to create The Chorus (for the track “Bury Me”). It all comes together to create something “broader, punchier and more soulful than anything we have attempted before. So jump up! Dance, clap or tap your toes to our new Bigger Blues”.
As you have come to expect from The Hard Stairs, Bigger Blues does precisely what the title says. It is their usual bluesy goodness, but BIGGER! However, it offers a lot more than that. Its opening track, “7 Till Late”, delivers some of their no-nonsense sounds. Like their previous releases, they pay homage to the spirit of the blues while adding their stamp to it. As a result, because of their love for this genre, each song oozes a raw but authentic sound that is irresistible. For example, “Mean Things” has strut about it with D S#arp’s harmonica in fine form. It all comes together to create an infectious energy, even more, when the killer guitar solo comes into play.
Hard Stairs showcase that they can deliver much more than ‘Bigger Blues’ with their new album
But, as mentioned before, this album has more to offer. As well as toes tapping grooves (check out “Cutie Blues”), they can also slow down the mood. “Seeds” sees a quiet bluesy/jazz vibe with Octavius Fox’s bass and Longsail’s guitar creating a captivating atmosphere. They have added a few new sounds to their roster too. Tracks like “Running on the Wind” add some Americana. While”Missing You” delivers a duet with country elements to it. These new additions add a welcomed depth to their work. It shows they are no one trick pony.
Woven within their soundtrack are some amazing vocals and lyrics too. Sometimes they can be overshadowed by their music, but they are there for you to appreciate and enjoy. There are many moments where this quality comes into the spotlight. One of them is “Tickfaw Woman”. Yet again, it is another toe-tapping groove, but it sees Longsail’s voice capture the essence of blues. As soon as it begins with “You got to slow down / Why you got to be so keen?”, you can hear his gravelly tone at work. It packs an added punch as he shares the lines, “She tells me, Who, why, when, how? / And everything in between”.
But, to hear this part of their music at its best, listen to one of the big standout tracks from the album, “Bury Me”. It is a short song that repeats the lines, “Oh when I die, please bury me / Deep beneath, that willow tree / When I’m gone, please carry on, please carry on”. But it is a stunning showcase of captivating and infectious vocals. The collective voices that are The Choir add a gospel feel that makes you want to sing along with them. On top of that, Longsail is in fine form as he holds nothing back with his voice to stunning effect. It all comes together to create an exceptional moment within Bigger Blues.
From the start to its finale, this album takes you on a journey with its various musical landscapes. But, if you want to hear one song that captures the spirit of this release, look no further than the outstanding “7 Till Late”. Martin J’s tapping on the drum and its cymbal sets the mood. It doesn’t take long for the party to take up another notch as others join the fun. D S#arp with his harmonica helps to enrich the bluesy vibe, and that bass line from Octavius Fox is mesmerising. On top of that, Longsail’s guitar and vocals add the final pieces to this good-time track.
Together they create a soundtrack that blends blues with some old-school rock n roll. The atmosphere is electric as Hard Stairs wants the listener to have a good time. A feeling shared by the lines, “Now take my hand / Going to follow the band / We’re going to dance / Those blues away”. It summarises what Bigger Blues offers, as this album is about having a good time. Do yourself a favour, and give this album a listen. Just press play, turn it up and enjoy!