True blues: Infinite Savoy Brown ‘Ain’t Done Yet’

Savoy Brown’s founder Kim Simmonds has had drummer Garnet Grimm, left, and bassist Pat DeSalvo, right, by his side for 10 years. The band’s 46th album, “Ain’t Done Yet,” is released Aug. 28, 2020.

Welch guitarist, singer, and songwriter Kim Simmonds, long now a transplanted upstate New Yorker, considers the blues “a totally infinite thing.” That makes sense in the grand scheme, of course. But it’s an especially apt thought in the context of Simmonds’ life leading English blues/rock pioneers, Savoy Brown.

For more than 55 years and through 46 albums (five of them solo endeavors), Simmonds and Savoy Brown have used the endless possibilities of the blues to make compelling, oftentimes thrilling music. With every song on “Ain’t Done Yet,” Simmonds, bassist Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnett Grimm — together 10 years — show intensely and seductively just how far away from done they really are.

They’re locked together, but open to any possibility it seems. Simmonds sings in a voice strong in pitch, nuance and clarity. He rips, slips and slides on guitar with the spirit of a kid, and the dexterity and tone of the master that he is. He wrote all the songs, which vary engagingly in style. All of them sound fuller than those on previous Savoy Brown albums because Simmons took a multi-layered approach to recording his guitar parts. A very good idea that was.

The pounding opener, “All Gone Wrong,” gets right to the heart of the matter with the same kind of hell-bound train drive that Savoy Brown injected into Muddy Waters’ “Louisiana Blues” back in 1969. A song of looking back, Simmonds is matter-of-fact with the words, but screams through his guitar. DeSalvo and Grimm create a monstrous groove. That Simmonds has been in New York as long as he has definitely made an impact on in his music. Several of his influences surface here, and a few could easily attract Americana music fans.

The upbeat “River on the Rise” elevates itself on a Creedence Clearwater Revival-like swamp beat. “Rocking in Louisiana” follows suit, diving headfirst into a pool of gleeful strumming and foot-stomping. They even channel Santana with the mesmerizing, Latin-tinged “Feel Like a Gypsy.”

Guitarists who have it, never lose it. At 72, Simmonds immerses himself in his guitar, and comes up constantly glimmering. But the blues prevails. “Devil’s Highway” saunters and stings, and “Borrowed Time” lurks with the menace of some kind of devil weighing on the shoulders of an old gent contemplating his end. Those blues and all the rest herald a bright future yet for Savoy Brown.

-Tom Clarke

  • Savoy Brown
  • ‘Ain’t Done Yet’
  • Label: Quarto Valley Records
  • Release: Friday, Aug. 28, 2020

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 23 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, and the 45-year timelines and ever-growing family trees of The Allman Brothers Band and Los Lobos. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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