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Rival Sons

One part BLACK CROWES to two parts LED ZEPPELIN, American hard-rock blues quartet RIVAL SONS emerged at a time when the genre was strictly aimed at a genealogy gentry in search of that perennial lost chord… or even thee golden plectrum, as precluded to by Jack Black’s TENACIOUS D. But armed with ready-made riffs and spontaneity that captured the essence of the sumptuous 70s (and beyond), this slightly fresh-faced, Dave Cobb-produced combo closed in on becoming focal points of a whole new generation.
Formed June 2008 in Long Beach, Los Angeles, California, the vociferate RIVAL SONS comprised soaring singer Jay Buchanan, drummer Mike Miley, guitarist Scott Holiday and bassist Robin Everhart; the latter pair from the short-lived Black Summer Crush. The 4-piece were determined to get out of the starting stalls early, and in an effort to bend the right ears (and maybe some left ones), the aforementioned Cobb put together a self-financed debut set, BEFORE THE FIRE (2009) {*6}, that resonated with the Indy car racing fraternity due to opening cut `Tell Me Something’ being exposed on a sponsored ad. Follow-on track, `Lucky Girl’, abandoned the Zep connotations for one of a dangerous mingle of Boyce & Hart’s `Stepping Stone’ and PINK FLOYD’s `Breathe’.
Promptly working their socks off by rubbing shoulders on support slots to the likes of ALICE COOPER and AC/DC, the ‘Sons boarded long-standing metal imprint, Earache, whose mandate had somewhat fluctuated since their inception back in the day.
2011’s PRESSURE & TIME {*8} absorbed so much praise from none other than Classic Rock magazine, who heralded swag-bag songs such as `Gypsy Heart’, the title track, `All Over The Road’ and `Young Love’; and thereupon the album almost topped their end-of-year polls. Many modern-esque bands had attempted to fly with the ‘Zeppelin zeitgeist (from The CULT to WOLFMOTHER), but only really a few acts had made this work to their advantage; and remember GRETA VAN FLEET were still in short trousers at this stage, so to speak.
A subsequent tour in support of EVANESCENCE guaranteed RIVAL SONS further exposure, so it was no surprise that British audiences, by and large, bolstered breakthrough Top 40 sales for the band’s third album, HEAD DOWN (2012) {*7}. Not a case then of mindless boogie (one for the ALBERTOS Y LOST… connoisseur there), psychedelic troupers might well’ve been impressed with their two-parter, `Manifest Destiny’; over 12 minutes in total evoking the chronicled injustices dished out to Native Americans. Dumbing down their righteous rhetoric via hushed ballad, `Jordan’, or chipping in a swagger or two via `Wild Animal’ and `Keep On Swinging’, this quintessential hard-rock combo had now come of age.
Prior to the band’s next offering; 2014’s GREAT WESTERN VALKYRIE {*8}, bassist Dave Beste filled the vacancy left from the departure of Everhart. RIVAL SONS were slowly but surely gaining weight among the hard-rock fraternity by bubbling under the Top 100 mark, but better still in Britain they’d finally cracked the Top 20. Bluesy opening salvo, `Electric Man’, had a lot to do with showcasing the Sons’ all-encompassing sound, whilst the shrill of Buchanan excelled, “Whole Lotta Love”-like, on the scintillating `Secret’.
As touring keyboard player Todd Ogren was added in 2015, the band returned to the studio for a 3-week stint with dependable producer Dave Cobb. And sandwiched between a performance at Download Festival and a support slot to giants of hard-rock, DEEP PURPLE, HOLLOW BONES (2016) {*8} kept up the group’s high-end chart momentum; although again only bubbling under the Top 100 on home-soil. Complete with a sleeve design by Storm Thorgerson, who’d worked on “Pressure…”, the fifth set also unfettered a rare cover version by way of their grits ‘n’ soul rendition of IKE & TINA TURNER’s `Black Coffee’, a one-time staple resource for HUMBLE PIE. As it turned out, with tracks such as `Thundering Voices’ and the 2-part title track, their Zeppelin-esque bent was in part superseded by something akin to a meeting of The BLACK KEYS, BAD COMPANY and BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION.
In their element as subsequent support act to BLACK SABBATH on that band’s terminal “The End” tour, RIVAL SONS bailed from Earache, to subsequently sign on the dotted line for Cobb’s Atlantic-spun fledgling label, Low Country Sound.
2019’s FERAL ROOTS {*8} was a case of “the song remained the same”, only this time they’d shifted from ‘Zep gears “I” & “II” to a tempered and acoustic “III”. Frontman Jay had uprooted with his family to the rural climes of Franklin, Tennessee, and this proved positive in the group’s deflective trips such as `Look Away’ and the title track; right up to the gospel-addled anchor track, `Shooting Stars’. There was of course no let up on the blues-blasting of `Do Your Worst’, `Sugar On The Bone’ and `Back In The Woods’.
© MC Strong/MCS Aug2019

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