Hot off the Press

Mother Road | Drive

by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Columnist —

Mother Road DriveThe “older” generation of hard rock fans do it out of nostalgia, the “younger” out of longing for what they’ve never had a chance to experience themselves. And yet, you can hear almost everyone complaining there’s no time machine to be used whenever one fancies to. But with their first full length release Drive, Mother Road prove it’s possible to travel in time; all it takes is to push “play” button to be transferred back to the glorious 1970s decade, with all its musical richness and diversity. And as for this time travel, the tour guides are the German guitarist Chris Lyne (Soul Doctor), the American Texas-based singer Keith Slack (Steelhouse Lane, Michael Schenker Group, Mudpie), with their rhythm section comprised of drummer Zacky Tsoukas and bassist Frank Binke. And – last, but not least – the mighty Alessandro Del Vecchio comes in to supply the group with some massive Hammond and piano sound, making the line-up complete and ready for a journey forty years back.

The opener is “The Sun Will Shine Again,” and although the song starts off as if Mother Road were to take you on a trip to Southern U.S., don’t be misled by the country-ish, mellow intro. Soon it evolves into a ‘70s hard rock track much in vein of the early Whitesnake (the singer Keith Slack could be almost mistaken for the young Coverdale in this). It’s enriched with a piece of Lyne’s classic blues-infused shredding as for the guitar solo, but “classic” in this case is certainly not a synonym to “dated”.

The second track “Feather In Your Hat” sounds Purple-ish and bluesy, with vocals similar to Paul Rodgers’ singing style – and if it hadn’t been for the lack of background crackles so characteristic to the worn-out vinyl, one would have ended up thinking it’s an authentic 1970’s track. “Drive Me Crazy” – a piece of blues-influenced heavy rock with groovy guitar riffs – brings to mind classic Deep Purple again, to be followed up by “Out Of My Mind”, an interesting dialogue between Lyne’s guitar and Del Vecchio’s majestic Hammond sound, yet another throwback to the Hammond-dominated ‘70s rock.

“These Shoes” could have sounded more “authentic” only if played in a smoky bar, with its bluesy feeling and distinct Whitesnake influences. As for “Dangerous Highway”, a road song is actually what one could expect from a band named after the legendary US Route 66 (alternatively called “Mother Road”) and it only takes to hear a big organ intro soon followed by the crunchy guitar sound and the dynamic rhythm section to “get one’s motor running” and “head out on the highway…” as Steppenwolf once suggested.

“Poor Boy (Long Way Out)” is the seventh song on the record, with a little bit of Zeppelin and a little bit of Free poured in, preceding “Dirty Little Secret” enriched with Slack’s emotional and sensual vocal performance and impressive guitar work. This certainly could have ended up on any of Whitesnake records (even lyric-wise it’s something Coverdale could come up with). “Blue Eyes” takes a listener for a trip down the US South, as a distant echo of Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” resonates in the song’s intro – with a slight classic Uriah Heep flavor to it. There is also “Still Rainin” with a powerful chorus and “On My Way”, an acoustic, mellow song, which halfway through develops unexpectedly into a full-blooded blues track and goes back to the form of the acoustic ballad again towards the very end, with changes of pace impressive enough to finish the album on a high note.

If you miss thick blues-infused guitars and majestic Hammond sounds, and if you’d do just anything to go back in time, Mother Road’s Drive is a record for you. The names of musicians involved in the project speak for themselves, but while Slack, Lyne and Del Vecchio don’t have to do much to prove their music credibility, this particular album could stand for a proof of how effective a combination of unique talents might be. “Unique” is a word that suits Drive best. The album pays homage to what was best in the 1970s bluesy hard rock and to all the formative musical phenomena of the unforgettable and influential decade, but also combines all these blues, hard rock and progressive influences into an interesting, lively piece of work – not “dated” or “dull” by any means. If you love blues rock, if you’re into Free, Bad Company, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin or Whitesnake, if 1970s is a decade you either remember or you wish you did, Drive might become your personal highlight of 2014 so far. But even if what you look for is more of the outstanding musicianship than a nostalgia-driven time travel – Mother Road’s first album is still worth checking out.

Genre: Hard Rock, Blues Rock

Keith Slack – vocals
Chris Lyne – guitars
Zacky Tsoukas – drums
Frank Binke – bass
Alessandro DelVecchio – Hammond & piano

Track List:
1. The Sun Will Shine Again
2. Feather In Your Hat
3. Drive Me Crazy
4. Out Of My Mind
5. These Shoes
6. Dangerous Highway
7. Poor Boy (Long Way Out)
8. Dirty Little Secret
9. Blue Eyes
10. Still Rainin
11. On My Way

Label: Road Songs, AOR Heaven


Hardrock Haven rating: 10/10