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The Hellfire Club

Songs for Fallen Stars (Strength in Numbers)

By • Apr 25th, 2015 • Category: long players

The Hellfire Club have been a mainstay of Glasgow’s country-rock scene for around two decades, but remarkably, the band have only now got around to releasing their second album. ‘Songs for Fallen Stars’ kicks off confidently with the satisfying melodic crunch of ‘Sun In the Sky’ evoking The Jayhawks in their prime. The track is preceded by a slightly unsettling snippet of Western fiddle, a strangely ominous thematic link which recurs throughout the album. Perhaps this is intended as a ghostly reminder of the band’s early years playing the trad C&W circuit on Scotland’s West coast.

The album is characterised by its blending of old and new Americana, the Louvin Brothers meeting distorted y’allternative guitars, with Country & Western’s totemic lyrical concerns all present and correct. There’s an invigorating banquet of misery and heart-break spread across the album’s 13 tracks, which adhere fairly strictly to genre classicism. The most rewarding tracks, however, are the ones which have fun with the formula, stretching it a little and playing the band’s two stylistic facets off against each other.

‘Private Campbell’ exemplifies this approach, simple but direct guitar drones contrasting pleasingly with the fiddle lamenting a soldier’s sorry tale. The sweet ‘n’ sour approach of Neil Young is readily apparent on this track in particular. Another highlight is the elegant country-waltz, ‘Absent Friends’, a touching ballad which would surely elicit a warm response from the die-hards at Glasgow’s very own venerable Grand Ole Opry on Govan Road, as would the cut-time barn dance stomper ‘Dali’s Clock’. Elsewhere, the title track introduces Noir atmospherics of an American Gothic variety, to good effect. The dramatic finale ‘Montgomery’ mines a similar vein, abetted by shimmering, twangy guitar.

Drummer Bob Anderson- who has played with innumerable bands down the years, including Sid Griffin’s Coal Porters- forms a confident and sure-footed rhythm section with Mark Ferrari, the duo providing a robust but tasteful bedrock throughout.

Fiddle and Mandolin are supplied by Nick Ronan, while Kenny Irvine fleshes out the sound with organ and piano. A three-pronged frontline of Rab Armour (guitar/vocals), Helen Brown (vocals) and Willie Brown (guitar/vocals) completes this seven piece ensemble. Producer Johnny Smillie keeps the sonics pleasingly raw and vibrant.

Clearly a band best experienced in a live setting, The Hellfire Club can knock out classic Americana till the cows come home. ‘Songs For Fallen Stars’ also contains tantalising glimpses of new plains to be explored- perhaps a little more peyote in the bourbon would reap rich rewards.

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4 Responses »

    @BBCRoddyHart nice wee review of the album

    @rickyaross nice wee review of the album

    @WhisperingBob nice wee review of our album. Could you RT

    Rab and Helen at album launch

  4. RT @the_hellfires:
    @WhisperingBob nice wee review of our album. Could you RT

    Rab and Helen at album launch http://t…