No Time Like Now to call on old friends

Randy Bach­man, Rob Sz­abo lend a hand on Steve Strong­man’s lat­est al­bum

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - GRAHAM ROCK­ING­HAM grock­ing­ham@thes­pec.com 905-526-3331 | @Rock­atTheSpec

It’s not al­ways easy to break out of the blues, the mu­si­cal kind any­ways. Blues purists can be some of the worst snobs. You know the type … if it doesn’t sound like Muddy Wa­ters, then it ain’t the blues.

The only prob­lem with that at­ti­tude is that it can be a tad con­fin­ing … even a lit­tle bor­ing. Some­times a blues lover has just gotta stretch.

That’s just what Steve Strong­man has done on his new al­bum “No Time Like Now.” The 10 tracks on the record, which will be launched at a re­lease party March 3 at Mills Hard­ware, are still based in the blues.

But they also rock more … far more … than any of the Juno-win­ning blues man’s pre­vi­ous solo al­bums.

“We came out swing­ing with this for sure,” says Strong­man, a long­time Hamil­ton res­i­dent, orig­i­nally from Kitch­ener. “I wanted to make a real gui­tar-driven record. I wanted to ex­plore blues as sort of a larg­er­based sound. Peo­ple like to put bound­aries on you, and I like to push those.”

The open­ing title track starts out pleas­ant enough with a gen­tle acous­tic gui­tar strum be­fore burst­ing out into a mon­ster bass-driven back­beat, flow­ing into a cho­rus of echo­ing hand­claps and gang vo­cals.

Next up is “Bring the Ham­mer Down,” a track pow­ered by a ZZ Top-like shuf­fle and enough fuzz gui­tar to send a Billy Gib­bons fan to heaven. Track three, Money in the Bank, is down-dirty and swampy. More gang vo­cals.

And then there’s track four — a flash gui­tar duet with Randy Bach­man on the Bach­man-Turner Over­drive clas­sic “You Ain’t Seen Noth­ing Yet.” It’s a cover song, for sure, turned up­side down and re­ar­ranged by Strong­man with Bach­man’s sup­port. No stut­ter on this ver­sion.

“I did want to change it up a lit­tle

bit be­cause it’s such an iconic song,” Strong­man says. “We recorded it and then I emailed it to Randy. He loved it.

“He thought it was a fan­tas­tic ver­sion of it.”

It didn’t take much to con­vince Bach­man to play on the record.

“He loved it so much he in­vited me to launch my ver­sion of his song with him at his show at the CNE this sum­mer,” Strong­man says. “It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Strong­man has known Bach­man since open­ing for him al­most 25 years ago at the Kee to Bala in Muskoka. He also played gui­tar with Randy’s son Tal be­fore leav­ing the younger Bach­man to form the al­trock band Plas­ticine with an old friend from Kitch­ener, Rob Sz­abo.

Al­though both em­barked on solo ca­reers, Strong­man and Sz­abo re­main close friends and col­lab­o­ra­tors. Sz­abo had pro­duced Strong­man’s two pre­vi­ous al­bums, in­clud­ing the Juno-win­ning “A Nat­u­ral Fact.”

Strong­man re­turned to him as pro­ducer for “No Time Like Now” and Sz­abo also gets cowrit­ing cred­its on nine of the al­bum’s tracks. They recorded much of the al­bum at Strong­man’s west Hamil­ton home, us­ing Sz­abo’s mo­bile record­ing stu­dio.

“In­stead of go­ing into a large stu­dio, we opted to stay home and not have to watch the clock,” Strong­man says. “That way we were able to spend more time with it and I think that re­ally led to some amaz­ing gui­tar tones. It was a very cool ex­pe­ri­ence.”

MATT BARNES

Hamil­ton’s Steve Strong­man stretches his blues mus­cles a bit on his lat­est al­bum, "No Time Like Now."

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