Released on Decca in 1970, Black Cat Bones’ first and only record is an interesting window into London’s burgeoning blues scene of the late 1960s. Named after a line in a Muddy Water’s song, the band originally boasted a lineup including Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke, who would go on to form Free. The group was something of a revolving door though, and Kossoff and Kirke do not appear on this release. The cast here includes Stu and Derek Brooks who later formed Leaf Hound, and Rod Price who played lead in Foghat for many years.

The album’s opening track, “Chauffeur” establishes the immediacy of their sound with Brian Short’s deep, moody vocals, and Derek Brooks’ full, warm tone on guitar. “Death Valley Blues” is a slow-burning track that feels like Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” which was released on “Zeppelin III” in the fall of 1970.

“Please Tell Me Baby” ups the tempo, reeling between tightness and a tongue-in-cheek jam where Robin Sylvester’s guest piano work slows, halts and kicks. The bands seems to be having a ball here. On “Save My Love” the album takes a heavy turn, as the bass and lead guitars follow the same line. When Derek Brooks breaks off from his brother Stu’s bass, the solo is executed to great effect and is in service of the song. No noodling or needless pyrotechnics here (think Alvin Lee), just straight ahead lead phrases that build upon the song’s central riff.

“Four Women” is the only cut that feels stuck in time. An unfortunate treatment of Nina Simone’s original, the opening acoustics and Short’s vocal styling feel a bit dated. The track is filled with a misplaced sadness that fails to resonate given the authenticity of the source material.

The album moves ahead with “Sylvester’s Blues,” a Price-penned homage to the delta sound. The band alternates between acoustic and electric sections, and pulls the record back from the brink of inconsistency threatened by the Simone cover. Another Price original, “Good Lookin’ Woman,” rounds out the set, with vocals and guitar hitting the same notes in a satisfying hard blues workout.

In all, Black Cat Bones’s “Barbed Wire Sandwich” does what good blues should do. It breathes new life into the form and makes a unique mark on the scene with a compelling combination of tradition and invention.

Highlights: Chauffeur, Death Valley Blues, Please Tell Me Baby

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