Rival Sons

Head Down

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California blues-rock quartet Rival Sons bemoan the lack of danger in today's rock & roll generation on their Facebook page, a slightly hypocritical viewpoint considering that their third studio album, Head Down, could have been recorded at any point over the last 40 years. However, their clich├ęd soundbites aside, there's much to enjoy on this typically ballsy and no-nonsense follow-up to 2011 breakthrough Pressure & Time. Led Zeppelin fans disappointed by their recent denials of a reunion could do worse than check out the blistering opener "Keep on Swinging" and raucous "You Want To" to get their fix of Page-inspired classic rock riffs and Plant-esque wails. Their proggy tendencies also come to fruition on the sprawling "Manifest Destiny," a psychedelic two-part suite about the slaughter of Native Americans containing an epic four-minute solo from Scott Holiday. But with Grammy-nominated producer Dave Cobb (Shooter Jennings) at the helm, their trademark swagger is now matched by a sense of adventure. "Wild Animal" sees frontman Jay Buchanan tone down his force-of-nature tones on a surprisingly chirpy slice of '60s West Coast pop, likewise on the hushed balladry of "Jordan," a vulnerable reflection on death that eventually builds up into a soaring "With a Little Help from My Friends" finale. "All the Way," a cheeky spoken-sung tale about a man's whiskey-based exploits, is backed by an infectious Motown groove, while there's even a Tim Buckley-ish acoustic folk ballad with the falsetto-led closer "True." Despite the band's "things ain't what they used to be" claims, Head Down is about as edgy as Status Quo ("Until the Sun Comes" could actually be mistaken for Francis Rossi and company's three-chord rock). But nevertheless, it's a record that proves Rival Sons do what they do very well.

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