[ALBUM REVIEW] Rival Sons – Feral Roots

Feral Roots Tracklist:

Do Your Worst
Sugar On The Bone
Back In The Woods
Look Away
Feral Roots
Too Bad
Stood By Me
Imperial Joy
All Directions
End of Forever
Shooting Stars

Reviewed by Jodi Maree

When it comes to the Rival Sons bandwagon, unfortunately, I must admit I was late to the party. Having only discovered them after the Great Western Valkyrie album of 2014, I was immediately hooked and filled my shelves with the whole back catalog. Their bluesy rock style is quite unique but somehow reminiscent of a generation past.

Formed in  California in 2009, they are Scott Holiday on guitar, Mike Miley on drums, Dave Beste on bass and the hugely underrated Jay Buchanan on vocals. Having gained themselves a moderate fanbase particularly in the States, it appeared that their support slot with Black Sabbath on The End Tour most definitely increased their profile and fan base at least here in Australia anyway.

 However, they are a very hard working band, having produced 6 studio albums to date.

2009 Before The Fire

 2011 Pressure and Time

 2012 Head Down

 2014 Great Western Valkyrie

 2016 Hollow Bones and now their most recent album Feral Roots, just released in January 2019.

Feral Roots opens with Do Your Worst which was released as a single late in 2018. It is distinctively Rival Sons, with that very identifiable dirty fuzzy guitar and strong bass lines. Jay’s amazing vocals show they have only gotten better over time. Lyrically ambiguous, the listener could apply many meanings. The one thing you cannot deny is how catchy the melody of this track is and it is no surprise it is the album opener.

 Sugar On The Bone starts with a strong beat and launches into some in-your-face vocals and some lyrics filled with sexual innuendo. Miley on drums really holds the beat.

However, it is his amazing opening to Back In The Woods that gets my feet tapping. Strong and super catchy just simply put, it makes you want to move. Jay manages to take you on yet another journey and as he usually does, comes out with a very emotion filled vocals.

Look Away has an almost Middle Eastern feel to it as it starts, conjuring up images of deserts and veiled women. The acoustic strings lead into a solid electric track with a slightly political feel to the lyrics although concealed and not over the top.

The title track Feral Roots is next and has such a beautiful sound with each instrument blending beautifully together creating a very soulful yet peaceful ambiance.  The tempo and the tone of Jay’s vocals are much less in your face, but haunting and has you wanting more of this aural genius.

Too Bad is a song about an ex, and this track starts off with that slower drawling riff, with a distinctive bluesy feel. To me, it makes you just want to sway with the music and sing the emotion-filled lyrics, whereas, Stood By Me tells the tale of having someone by your side even when you think you don’t need them. Underneath the superb guitar riffs, it to me has a mildly Doors-y type of feel to it.

Imperial Joy, while still a great track, for me, personally is my least favourite. It just does not have that hook, it’s slower and feels a tad disjointed by comparison to other tracks on the album.

All Directions is hauntingly beautiful in its intro and very soulful lyrics but again a slower track more the type that you would chill to.

End Of Forever, sounding like a breakup song of sorts, this song has that strong vocal emotion we’ve come to know, almost with a Foreigner sound to it at points.

Shooting Stars is the final track and has a distinctively almost gospel sound to it which, quite surprisingly, is really good. It has feel-good lyrics and is remarkably catchy. I find myself playing this one more than I thought I would and the backing vocals feel somewhat inspiring and empowering. Not what I would have expected at all, but a great track nonetheless.

All in all, a very solid album with a few diverse sounding tracks the one thing remaining, the musical strength.  These guys know how to write songs and the album has been produced exceptionally well.

 Jay’s vocals, as always, display an array of talent and having seen them live in a small venue, I can honestly say he has one of the most captivating voices and a remarkable stage presence. Scott Holiday on guitar is very underrated, as he has perfected the sound that has become synonymous with Rival Sons. He is super talented, yet down to earth. Mike Miley has the heartbeat of this band in his hands and what a job he does. There are some absolute ripper drum beats here and the little fills and things you pick up after multiple listens a truly amazing Dave Beste holds some mighty bass lines down and together they pull together a damn fine album.

For anyone who likes great solid bluesy rock,  I would highly recommend Rival Sons.