Håkon Høye — Nights at the Surf Motel
(Bighrecords BIGHCD 1906, 2019, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2020-05-02
Contrary to what the title may lead one to believe, this is not an album of surf rock, but instead an album’s worth of original bluesy rock tunes with some rootsy soul and gospel elements in the mix. Håkon Høye, as a singer, guitarist, and producer, has been a fixture on the Norwegian blues rock scene since the early 2000s, working with the Billy T Band, Joakim Tinderholt, and others. Here he offers eight original numbers written with his longtime collaborator Bill Troiani (leader and bassist of Billy T Band), plus a couple of worthy cover tunes. Høye sings lead throughout as well as contributing all guitars and electric bass on a few tracks as well, but for most of the tunes he’s backed up by bassist Per Tobro and drummer Vetle Larsen, with Kasper Skullerud Værnes supplying saxophone on several of the cuts. Guest players provide piano, organ, additional bass, acoustic guitar, accordion and backup vocals on this track or that, all making for a solid set with a fair amount of variety that follows a style that drives hard but warms the heart. Among the cover tunes are Richard Berry and The Pharoahs 1957 blues classic “Sweet Sugar You,” and Curtis Mayfield’s 1971 number “You Must Believe Me,” Høye does both tunes justice while giving them new life. Among the originals there a number of standouts including the powerhouse “Time Will Tell,” with one of Høye’s most expressive vocals, combined with a gritty guitar figure in a stripped-down trio format. “Stay Awhile” is a rootsy number reminiscent of The Band in their heyday, while “One Floor Down” pushes a funky soul beat with saxes adding to the punch. The title track is the album closer, nothing surf about it, but a dark and smoky blues number hightlighted by piano and Høye’s intermittent blistering guitar phrases and vocal delivery. Overall, this is the real deal, ten tracks that will catapult the listener back to the blues-rock sound that was so prevalent back in the late 60s.
Related artist(s): Håkon Høye
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