Lovers of all thing blues and rock (or just plain great music) will be thrilled to hear that Basson Laubscher & The Violent Free Peace are back with their full length album, Testify, that doesn't stand back for anyone. Even though it has been 3 years since their last release, it has been well worth the wait and their latest offering is one that will stand the test of time.
As the intro of Testify starts, you’re immediately catapulted into another dimension. A smoky underground grunge lounge where you leave your worries at the door and the only gospel is preached by a Fender. The song is timeless and catchy and with every spin I fell more in love. However, Laubscher’s vehement voice and outlandish lyrics are not the only contributing factors that give the listeners this memorable experience.
Instruments like the saxophone (Jess van der Merwe) and trumpet (Lee Thompson) have been sensibly incorporated to effectively introduce listeners to Laubscher’s blend of blues, rock ,and country. Laubscher effortlessly showed off with his guitar skills during solos, while Riaan Nieuwenhuis (keys), Jan Fyfer (drums) and Greg Thompson (bass) proved themselves worthy from the first to the very last beat.
After such an exhilarating start I was hyped up to dig into the rest; but I found the transition from the first song to the second, a bit questionable. Although Lost is musically and lyrically rich and true to the country folk genre with its common pickin’ licks and brushes on the snare it just seemed out of place to be the follow-up of such a cutting-edge song. Luckily things went smooth from there with Coming Home where the listener is swallowed into an imaginary scene once more. Clear as day three flawless ladies come waltzing into mind, each with a mic in hand. With their warm vocals they accompany Basson through this triumphant anthem. It was here where a bit of warmth and depth was introduced with the song’s charming verses, rhythm and the careful arrangement of instruments.
However, heat has only started and that tone was carried on to the next track. My attention was fully devoted to Laubscher by now as my personal favourite of the album, Rattleshake, rolled around. My naughty side was rattled and it shook in all the right places as this song kept building. The Wild-Wild-West theme in this song is infectious with the upbeat rhythms; Laubscher’s teasing voice and guitar-slinging.
Drag Me Down certainly did no dragging down for Laubscher. The rock dial was turned to full blast with this one. The trio effortlessly introduces many influencing genres to undoubtedly confirm their versatility. Halfway through the song, one is left eager to know what Laubscher & The Violent Free Peace still has up their sleeve. Another playful song, which takes place between two lovers, deserves its title, Make Me Wait. With one catchy beat, a surreal dynamic between the bass and drums, more mesmerising solos and a cowbell, I have to give credit to Laubscher and the band for making us wait for this song (and the album).
A more nostalgic Laubscher comes to show after an upbeat hit. Old Town is dripping with melancholy. Again I must add that it is a bit unconventional to place the song in the middle of the album with its slower rhythms during verses. However, a rocking guitar solo saves the day just before you might lose that hint of nostalgia. But I guess you need a bit of a breather after the marathon boogie that just took place! Make it Right comes just in time to lift the spirits. The keys on this song is a favourite for me, excluding the build-up and solo towards the end which has to be experienced to really appreciate it. Another love affair was present in the song and the blues rock approach that Laubscher has taken, elevates this love song.
Rob Nagel also lends his skills on the harmonica when Animal starts to play and all hell breaks loose. Animal is yet another song where every element works as a whole, either in solos or along with every other instrument. I can’t get enough of Basson’s raw unapologetic vocals that dominate the album. Shoot Me Down is another triumph on the guitar front and leaves another hit for the rock ‘n roll lovers to enjoy.
The finale comes and buckle up, because Bonnie & Clyde are back in town to cause havoc just before the end of the album. The rush of the iconic duo’s history is made tangible with the first-rate drumming rhythm along with Laubscher’s guitar skills. A tremendous surprise and the peak of the song is not just the eloquently told love story of two scoundrels trying to get out of town, but the actual police sirens and guitar slinging that leaves you breathless after the chase.
All in all Laubscher and his band put together a stellar supporting line-up to round off this thrilling album. Get ready to put on your dancing shoes, boogie the night away and most of all, TESTIFY!