Album Review: Highway 491 – These Places, In This City

Highway 491 album 'These Places, In this City'

Earlier this year Glasgow based blues/rock & roll band ‘Highway 491’ released their debut album, These Places In This City featuring 10 tracks recorded at Ice Breaker Studios in Perth, Scotland. Starting out in 2012 as a weekly jam session, the band was then a dup featuring Cameron Arndt on guitar/vocals and harmonica, and Alex Dick on drums. In 2014 they released their first five track EP before adding a third member the following year: Garry Murrie on bass. Then the trio released a video/single, ‘Four Days in New York City’ before In The Loop – The Acoustic Session – nine promising tracks recorded over three sessions. As of last year, we saw a bit of a shake up as Highway 491 became a four piece band for the first time.

The opening track “The Record” lays the aesthetic of old-school blues against grungy guitar riffs and dry drum beats whilst “Crime & Punishment” is another track to check out. It similarly opens in this cool Americana style with complimentary harmonica by Chris Small. “Feet to the Fire” continues this theme with a heavy entrance followed by grungy distorted guitar entry. In this way the album is both versatile whilst also coherent in its themes and links.

The quartet describe themselves as ‘stripped-back blues rock at its very best’. And this album is a perfect example of this statement. But the main takeaway from These Places In This City is the versatility of the upcoming Glaswegian band. For example, “Boom Boom” presents them at their raw energetic best with muted growling vocals heavily evocative of their American country blues identity. Then there’s “3rd time lucky”, a laid-back ballad-esque track punctuated by organ chimes and keyboard solos providing a good contrast to the rest of the album. We can also see this versatility in the structural groundwork throughout a few of their tracks, such as “Moscow (On the Road)” which plays between a ‘stripped-back’ instrumentation section or their classic more heavy sections.

The highlight of the album has to be the second track, “In the Loop”. It was initially released in September of 2017 as part of The Acoustic Session. Catchy, swingy and grungy, this track shows off Highway 491 at their raw energetic best. Interestingly, the track reminisces the main riff in “the father of modern Chicago blues”, Muddy Waters’ song ‘Mannish Boy’ (1955). Interestingly, the band have cited Waters as their inspiration amongst others such as Jack White.

As well as the versatility of each of the artists, Highway 491 shows off the sheer prowess of their musical abilities throughout. This is an exciting and strong album release and I’m looking forward to what’s to come next for the four piece band. This isn’t the first time Off the Record has reviewed the group however and if you want to check that out then click here.

 

First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org


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