Despite forming in Brighton, Black State Highway are a European band. Fronted by Latvian Liva Steinberga and backed up by English and Swedish guitarists Olie Trethaway and Yonnis Crampton respectively. You can guess what nationality Gordon Duncan is and drummer Harry Bland is apparently Ginger (and nothing wrong with that!).
BSH have been creating a buzz in the south of the country in recent months. Their sound is a metally blues with powering riffs and a decidedly 70’s influence. Debut album self titled ‘Black State Highway‘ (and as far as I can tell as I have no info, self released) is shortish, just eight tracks.
First out of the gate, ‘Conclusion‘ has a vaguely ‘Whole Lotta Love’ riff and with Liva’s bluesy scream of a voice it works well with the Zeppy feel. There are all kinds of influences showing in this song, I can hear a bit of Purple and a smidgeon of Ram Jam’s Black Betty.
It would be tempting to make a comparison with The Pretty Reckless on track 2, ‘Ain’t Got No‘ and in fact one comparison I would make is the difference between live performance and recording. I saw BSH at HRHVIII and they impressed me hugely with their heaviness and the raunch of Liva’s voice. I saw The Pretty Reckless at the Isle of Wight and was impressed in the same way. I don’t feel the recordings quite capture how powerful they are, as is often the way production on the female vocals is a bit thin.
‘Broken‘ opens with a a ‘Lucy in the Sky’ guitar sound and launches into more 70’s classic riffage it ebbs and flows in the way of that period. I love the guitar sound on this album and the rhythm section powers it along.
There is a lot going on in these songs, listen to ‘Free‘ and you’ll see what I mean. What BSH do very successfully is take a real seventies sound but bring it bang up to date with the vocal, ‘Sacrifice‘ being a case in point.
‘Tekkers‘ grooves along punctuated with some very accomplished rhythm and lead work from Olie and Yonnis and ‘Common Man‘ has a head banging riff that is sure to please. Finishing up with standard rocker ‘Trouble‘ this concludes a very satisfactory debut album.
There are a lot of female fronted bands on the circuit at the moment, the line up at HRHVIII was testament to that but if you like your rock bluesy and classic with a modern twist then BSH stand out in the crowd. For me the album is a grower, I liked it when I first heard it but by 3rd or 4th listen I was seriously loving it. I’m glad I saw them at HRH because much I as I am enjoying the album they are definitely a band you want to catch live. It was a high adrenaline set and Liva is a no nonsense go for it performer, she has a lot of personality and had both the men and women in the audience mesmerised, for me they were one of the finds of HRH and I confess I infinitely preferred their performance to the much lauded Amorettes.
For me the album is a grower, I liked it when I first heard it but by 3rd or 4th listen I was seriously loving it.