NATIVE SONS – Shadow Head (2023)
Kentucky’s NATIVE SONS have returned with their sophomore album ”Shadow Head”, almost four years since their stupendous debut album, with line-up changes but frontman / songwriter Ashton Blake still at the helm.
Native Sons is a young hard rock band with classic attitude, sound, and songwriting, influenced by the late ’80s and especially the early ’90s American sound with some Lynch Mob on it – all with an updated production sound – which is great, btw.
The album kicks off with “Danger,” and you know exactly what you’re in for in terms of the vibe for the rest of this album. Ashton’s vocals are wide – especially in the chorus – and solos are to be admired. The new guitar duo of Victor Adriel and JT Shea are pure fire here and for the duration of the LP, with that pairing bringing an added notch of musicianship to the band.
Next, “Again Tomorrow” is a direct hit to the face with a pummeling, dirge of a groove that features perfectly pocketed drumming credited to newcomer Grady Steel. It’s an uplifting reminder that the sun will continue to rise, and the power of perseverance is sometimes rewarded with second chances.
With an indelible melody, the catchy “Another Day” is a glaring contender for potential release as a future single/video. The melodies and memorable chorus of the song are a cut above, rendering it a clear standout early on.
While their sound is undeniably rooted in blues-based hard rock, there are also subtle touches of modern rock here and elsewhere throughout the album. That’s to be expected with a Native Sons record, and particularly with ”Shadow Head” proving to be a stylistic expansion on ground that they’ve already covered.
The midway point of the album gives way to the melancholy ballad “Lost”, which reflects on past decisions made (presumably bad ones). Hindsight is 20/20, but at the very least, the Native Sons got a good song out of the deal. It does well to showcase another side of the band and adds some contrast to the full-throttle rockers that permeate the remainder of Shadow Head.
That downshift in gears is only momentary, and then it’s pedal to the metal once again, with soaring vocals and a rapid-fire beat that’s sure to win you a speeding ticket. It’s a fun song that will sound great in the band’s live show.
“Let Me Go” is another bruiser that moves along nicely to a tight groove while packing plenty of punch
“I’ve Got Time” has a crashing rhythm and features another soulful, expressive solo that is a true attribute to the cut. Guitarists JT Shea and Victor Adriel have undoubtedly raised the bar on all future Native Sons records and their performances throughout ”Shadow Head” are nothing short of awe-inspiring while not outshining the songs as a whole. What good is a flashy guitar solo if it has no context within the song?
One of the album’s best songs, “Drama”, was saved for nearly last. It’s a stellar tune asking for FM radio airplay.
Just when you think it’s safe to come up for air, title track “Shadow Head” pulls a quick bait and switch on us with the subdued guitar passage that opens it up. In the eleventh hour, the title track is only a slight departure from the rest of the record in that the tempo isn’t quite as breakneck. Even so, it’s got a nice stomp to it.
The album ends on a high note with the buzz-saw riffs that kick off “Too Late” in sinister fashion, raising the roof and leaving my ears satisfied with what they had just experienced for the past thirty-two minutes. A very subtly placed tambourine jingle also lifts the song at the chorus and gives it a needed touch of color.
With just ten songs included, the album is very concise and gets right to the point. Ultimately, I prefer that over an LP stacked with filler at the detriment of brevity.
Given that this this second album features new members and was written, recorded, and produced independently, the finished product is a phenomenal follow-up to their debut. Native Sons have cooked up an astounding album with jaw-dropping performances.
As I listen back to ”Shadow Head”, Blake’s soulful, emotive wail also brings to mind a very well-known bluesy, hard rock band of the early ‘90s – Lynch Mob – especially the vocal work. Ashton Blake would be an optimal fit for George Lynch’s long-running outfit.
01 – Danger
02 – Again Tomorrow
03 – Another Day
04 – Lost
05 – Red Leather Woman
06 – Let Me Go
07 – Drama
08 – I’ve Got Time
09 – Shadow Head
10 – Too Late
Ashton Blake – lead vocals
JT Shea – lead guitar
Victor Adriel – lead guitar
Grady Steel – drums, background vocals
Truman Fleming – bass
Thnx 0Day, good to see some hometown Rock, getting some recognition