28 Nov 2021
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Darren Watson - Album Review: Getting Sober For The End of the World

30 Sep 2020 // A review by Kev Rowland

Darren Watson originally became known in the Eighties as principal songwriter and frontman for rhythm and blues outfit Chicago Smoke Shop, with whom he recorded two albums. Since going solo he has released six studio albums, with his last, 2018’s Too Many Millionaires being his most successful, reaching #3 on the official NZ Albums Chart. This put pressure on Darren for the follow-up, and he spent a great deal of time working on new material before deciding to record it in his own studio. Last November Steve Moodie (double bass), and Delia Shanly (drums/percussion) began recording basic tracks on evenings at Lamington Studios – which is Darren’s house in Ngaio, Wellington. Every single track on this record is Darren singing and playing a guitar of some kind live at the same time, and there are no lead vocal 'fixes' or guitar overdubs. More musicians were added here and there, but at the core were these three, and it is all about feel and emotion more than it is having everything perfectly correct at all times.

This is traditional country style blues, and of the nine songs on offer, seven of them are original. One, Love That I Had is by Matt Hay who has worked with Darren in the past and is a fellow Wellingtonian, while closer Preachin’ Blues (Up Jumped The Devil) is the Robert Johnson classic and it fits perfectly alongside all his own material.

Ernie Abbott is about the infamous Trades Hall bombing in 1984, and Watson sounds in pain when he says, "Somebody’s got to know who took the life of this peaceful man". In many ways this is the embodiment of the whole album, as it is packed full of emotion, and the arrangements leave the vocals at the front. The accompaniment is just that, providing a background for a man to bear his soul and display his grief and sorrow for all to share. The picked guitar is delicate, with just a few notes delicately placed, and I found the more I listened to it the more I was reminded of the words of Harry Chapin’s Bluesman, "To play the blues, boy, you got to live 'em, Got your dues, boy, you know you got to give 'em, Got to start sweet like a slow blues rhythm, Like a heartbeat you'll always be with 'em."

This does not sound like Aotearoa blues, but rather as if this album from someone who grew up next to the Mississippi, and who has the delta running through his veins. This is classic pre-war blues, not the rambunctious style which came later, but one which is packed full of emotion and cries from the heart. I can’t wait to hear this in concert, as that is going to be a very special event indeed.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )
 

About Darren Watson

No-one plays the blues like Darren Watson. Over the better part of three decades he has developed a style that, while touching on all of the greats who inspired him, is personal, powerful and identifiably his own.

Watson gained national fame in the 80s as the young front-man and guitar-slinger for Smokeshop. The band made two albums, had several radio hits, opened for numerous international blues legends and toured tirelessly, earning Watson a place alongside the likes of Midge Marsden, Hammond Gamble and Rick Bryant as one of New Zealand's best blues interpreters.


Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Darren Watson

Releases

Too Many Millionaires
Year: 2018
Type: Album
Introducing Darren Watson
Year: 2014
Type: Album
Saint Hilda's Faithless Boy
Year: 2010
Type: Album
South Pacific Soul
Year: 2005
Type: Album
King Size
Year: 2002
Type: Album

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