Lewis Hamilton - Empty Roads
Lewis Hamilton is a name on many lips, but not normally in the context of the artist whose second album, Empty Roads, I’m reviewing here. Like his driving namesake Lewis burst onto the scene as a prodigious young talent and quickly started to make his mark, and this record will only add to the hold he has on his fans while making an impact on the blues scene in general.
At the moment we have a large number of extremely talented young blues men in the UK, with the likes of Oli Brown, Virgil McMahon and Mitch Laddie making for a crowded niche into which Lewis must step. It’s impressive then that Lewis has chosen to make such a traditional blues record, but in a room where everyone else is exploring the rockier fringes of their genre in a search for distinctiveness Lewis stands out by virtue of his traditional sound. Now, when I say traditional, I don’t mean straight Chicago copyist blues, but more something strongly akin to the traditions of British blues, guitars are thick toned and overdriven, rock is certainly on the plate as far as the riffy nature of the songwriting goes and hard hitting drums drive the tracks along. I also hear a lot of Rory Gallagher in the playing, something in the way that these Celts approach blues (Lewis is a Scot) that pulls them together in my mind.
There signs of youth in the music, a certain lack of restraint in the guitar (which I like a lot) and the occasional forced nature of the vocals. Many young blues players fall into the trap of trying to sound older than their years, and very few of them can pull it off. Thankfully it’s not a common theme on this record, and it only occurs really at the weaker lyrical moments, which are also few and far between. Songwriting is strong generally throughout, themes are common to much of the blues, but are dealt with without sounding over worked or trite, though they aren’t startlingly original either. It is exciting though, and that makes for an extremely enjoyable listen. There are more delicate moments too, it’s not all full on balls to the wall guitar hero stuff, and the beautiful delicate playing of the acoustic instrumental The Stream offers a great foil for the rockier numbers.
All in all, this is a very impressive release, it opens strongly and keeps up the momentum throughout while offering some seriously amazing guitar playing backed by an astoundingly tight band. If you’re interested in where the blues is headed you could do a lot worse than to listen to Lewis Hamilton, he certainly gets a thumbs up from me!