The Hardchargers – Scarecrow
It may have been a long wait for the first full long player from Northern Ireland blues power house The Hardchargers, but from the opening notes of ‘Mean Town Blues’, the wait has clearly been worthwhile as Chris Todd immediately howls the blues and plays slide guitar like a demon possessed over the top of one of the tightest rhythm sections around.
The record contains all the classic ingredients of the blues. Poverty, woman troubles and loneliness are served up here in a contemporary fashion with heartfelt playing in a clever mix of pounding heavy blues featuring a mix of electric guitars, resonators, washboards and ukulele bass.
Highlights include the Heraldic horns that abound on ‘Charger Swing’ while ‘Little Too Late’ features some mesmerising Hammond organ. The skiffle based washboard playing on ‘JoJo’ and the massive ‘No Stone Unturned’ features some blinding guitar solos.
‘Scarecrow’ is a great listen and a record that highlights the incredible talent of the band members. Like their power trio predecessors Cream and Taste the listener can single out one musician and listen as they play their instrument individually but in time and keeping with their bandmates. Richard Hodgen has both power and subtlety in his drumming and percussion skills, Dave Thompson is a steady and melodic bass player and Chris Todd summons up the ghosts of Rory Gallagher, Howlin’ Wolf, Son House and many more in both his guitar playing and vocal delivery.
Ultimately the record is a snapshot of a band at their peak with a line up that intuitively knows each other and has gelled after touring together on the road for several years. While the line has now changed the future in the hands of Chris Todd is safe and secure and as this chapter closes of the band we can all look forward to a new and exciting chapter to follow.