Static in the Wires, is the new studio album from slide guitar legend Martin Harley and double bass player Daniel Kimbro. It is a collection of finely crafted songs in which Harley's intricate guitar lines fuse his gritty vocals to Kimbro's booming melodic bass lines, creating something of real beauty. These fine performances of eleven new Harley compositions, are a treat for acoustic, blues and roots fans, which deserves to be widely heard.
Harley has always been at home in the Blues genre, and is probably most recognisable with a slide on a Weissenborn guitar, slung horizontally across his lap. This instrument is the ideal vehicle for Harley's remarkably expressive and emotive playing. The Blues tracks on Static in the Wires, such as One Horse Town, Feet Don't Fail Me Now, Trouble, This Little Bird, Mean Old City (2), are not the cliched endless 12-bar shuffles that fill some albums - but demonstrate a fine array of arrangements and styles. The addition of some rolling bluesy piano songs like One Horse Town, are something of a new departure for Harley and Kimbro, which work very nicely indeed. Feet Don't Fail Me Now starts a little like Somebody on Your Bond, but almost immediately veers into a slide guitar groove which has more than a little of the great Leo Kottke about some of its flourishes. Electric and then acoustic slide solos then complete this sure-fire contender for their new live set. My Lover's Arms, is a slow, bluesy country ballad, that is just brimming with that early Ray Charles feel, but with guitars rather than piano to the fore - and that is high praise indeed. Meanwhile on Trouble, (another one which I want to hear live), the wry blues lament of the lyrics is brought to life by some glorious Hawaiian sounding Weissenborn slide from Harley, and some deep, mournful bowed double-bass from Kimbro, culminating in a magnificent solo from the bass-man. The piano joins in again on This Little Bird, in a jaunty groove not unlike Nicky Hopkins' contributions to Gary Moore's Still Got The Blues sessions.
However there is more to Static in the Wires than Blues. There are also wistful ballads like Postcard from Hamburg, on which intricate guitar picking and neat harmonies relate the longing for home that is the life of the travelling musician. Sweet and Low, is a gentle acoustic ballad which harks back to Harley's Grow Your Own era. Dancing on the Rocks, is a different matter altogether, a gorgeous complexity of engaging lyrics, primed with longing and wistfulness, layered with great harmonies and guitar work which in places has echoes of John Martyn. I Need a Friend follows on in this vein, with intricately picked folky guitar work, over Kimbro's bass lines on a song that wouldn't have been out of place on Harley's Money Don't Matter album. The song Gold, however takes Harley into completely new sonic territory. This massively spaced out song, is luscious in it's dreamy world-weariness. The muffled drums add a dazed, smoky feel to the proceedings, while the electric guitar solo is sparse and beautiful. Wasn't it Miles Davis who commented that it's often as much about what you don't play as what you do? That precisely what this solo does - in a kind of Paul Kossof way, soaring above Gold's hazy backdrop.
Finally the album comes to a close with Mean Old City (Part 2). I'm not sure if part one exists anywhere, but part two is great ending to a splendid album. The hypnotic beat, driven by Kimbro's bass, provides a structure for Harley to let rip on the vocals, "I gotta go where I can be free!", and then improvises gloriously on the Weissenborn in a long, intense, brooding crescendo of a solo, which is captivating. If they don't play this live in their forthcoming tour together, I will be very disappointed!
Harley and Kimbro have gigged together many times, but this is their first album of new songs, recorded in studio conditions. Their only other joint-album, was really a live-in-the-studio set in which they re-worked a list of Harley favourites. It is for me, so far, the release of 2017 - and I'm looking forward to seeing them live on their forthcoming UK tour.