Sometimes the world’s best kept secret really do come true. In this case I’m talking about a Norfolk legend in the realm of blues-rock. Formed in the Early ’70’s the Buster James Band came out of the British rock and blues scene, playing to great crowd reactions they supported many top name groups from that era. They scored a major record deal and booked a recording session in 1972, but their guitarist decided not to play professionally full time. The recording session was offered to, and accepted by, the next band signed on the list which just happened to be Queen. This near miss has haunted the band to this day but they have kept plugging away, apart from a break from 1978 to 1981, right up to the present. The line-up on this album is Roger James – Vocals, Mark Holmes – Guitar/Backing Vocals, Richard Young – Guitar/Keyboards/Backing Vocals, Del Fletcher – Bass/Backing Vocals and Paul Hale – Drums. They list their influences as Free, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Mountain and ZZ Top so expect some bluesy hard rocking. The question is, do these veterans still cut the mustard, well let’s find out.
The album opens with ‘Holy Man’, a thick cut and bluesy guitar drives the track. The guitar solo has an early Bad Company vibe as does the track as a whole. Roger James’ gutsy blue collar vocal rips out the words with a venom that reminds you of vintage Phil Mogg. A fine start. Next up, ‘Here For The Money’, is a blues/rocker out of the AC/DC playbook and just as down and dirty. ‘Good Times’ has a Status Quo blues/rock feel to the guitar line and the same kind of energy. ‘Down All The Days’ swiftly follows. This song finds the band a lot nearer to their blues heritage and you don’t have to climb high to see the Mountain influence. ‘See Me Through’ harks back a lot to Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band especially in the rock tempo and use of keyboards. ‘I’m On Fire’ is more stripped back, it’s laid back and bluesy by while slowing the beat. Guitar at a minimum and a delicate piano line fleshes out most of the song enhanced by a heartbeat bass line while the emotional tone of the vocal matches the mood of the track. This tempo is repeated in the next song, ‘Jesus Just Left Chicago’. It’s a track that has some amazing blues guitar playing counterpointed by a Hammond organ and has the solid feel of ZZ Top running through its DNA and is the musical tour de force of the album. ‘Burning Bridges’ has an almost orchestral opening and is, again, firmly in the slower paced Bob Seger ballad arena. Roger James vocal really tugs at the heartstrings on this one.
Going back to my original question do these veterans cut the mustard; well if you love a certain blend of Classic 70’s/80’s blues rock they most certainly do. I’m also told they are stunning live, but as of this date I’ve not been lucky enough to see that for myself. ‘So Far So Good’ is a fine album, but is it the one to break the glass ceiling for the band? Well, I hope so but more importantly I get the feeling from every track that this band are just doing what they love to do.
Record Label: Northstar Music Ltd/Beardtunes
Release date: Out Now
Highlight tracks: ‘Holy Man’, ‘I’m On Fire’, ‘Jesus Just Left Chicago’
Words by Rob Birtley