By Tony Ives
What a joy! James Scott Bullard has delivered a Southern Rock album par excellence and the title says it all – Full Tilt Boogie. “Lord Have Mercy” is an electrifying start with a soaring lead guitar with slide fills and Bullard’s country vocal delivery. In the mix we get a bass line so deep it needs a mining permit and following we get the rumble of the Hammond organ as it introduces a perfectly drilled backing chorus.
This is a band you have to hear: together they fit like a glove. Can they boogie? Oh yes! Bullard on rhythm guitar, Jeff Springs on lead guitar and Kevin Singleton’s bass are a force to be reckoned with. This selection of hard-hitting rock songs is self penned and was recorded in South Carolina. Bullard’s gift or good fortune is working with Missy Davis Jones and Ken "Dakota" Jones. Through the quality of the song writing, arrangements, energy and high production values they’ve elevated this work to be a triumph.
“Wicked Ways” adds to the incendiary atmosphere. It sounds like the third song into a live set when the band really starts to cook. A distorted guitar plays rhythm and Justin Banks’ organ swirls and swoops. Before the smell of cordite clears, “All To Pieces” keeps the groove. A lovelorn lyric follows – “I never counted on a love so true, no I never thought a man could be so blue”.
Lyrically then “Hey, Hey Mama” isn’t Shakespeare with instructions to “put your good dress on” and advice that he’s going to love her like ‘it’s against the law” (which, we can all agree is probably too much information). However, I’m nit picking as the song sparks while a walking bass line bounces beneath that exquisite organ.
It’s worth saying at this point that Bullard is a firearm-carrying, ex-addict, ordained minister. I’ve read a lot of Americana biographies and surprisingly, he’s not unique! If all this has contributed to the quality of Full Tilt Boogie then the journey hasn’t been in vain.
The album’s accompanying PR places Bullard in Country Rock and I suppose I can concede some Outlaw in the confection, but only “Jesus, Jail or Texas” sits him comfortably in the genre - hell, even the title shouts Country! The guitar lead suggests Dickey Betts. Rest assured this is not a bad place to be and may find him a wider audience.
“Leavin’ On My Mind” sees Mike Knight drive this along on skins as Bullard takes us on a tour of Memphis, the Mississippi and Austin before moving through Louisiana to the Carolina Pines whilst the band boogies. “The Next Year” is a radio friendly tune which mixes Southern Rock and Tom Petty with an addictive ’60’s pop guitar motif and is the most commercial track on the album.
I thought I heard angels when the twin guitars introduced “Back To You” and we slip into that Allman Brothers' “Ramblin’ Man/Jessica” vibe. Bullard hitches a ride on a Southbound train leaving his lover sleeping to free his spirit only to regret his departure as he visits every town in Dixie. Just sublime.
Already on my end of year list.