Greg Prevost is back with the Stones-y Universal Vagrant, the second solo album he’s released since the Chesterfield Kings quietly called it quits back in 2009 – and the first since his 2013 terrific solo debut, Mississippi Murderer.
This time out for the singer, it’s a strong return to the Sticky Fingers / Exile on Main Street-influenced direction which we last heard on such Chesterfield Kings albums as Let’s Go Get Stoned (1994) and The Berlin Wall of Sound (1990). At the same time, Prevost’s Universal Vagrant is similar in approach to his first solo album, in that it’s a stripped-down affair.
Greg handles most of the electric guitars, backed by returning bassist Alex Patrick and drummer Zachary Koch – with occasional guest musicians on piano and backup vocals. On the whole, however, it’s a very full-sounding recording.
“Moanin’ the Blues,” a raucous blues cover, perhaps best exemplifies Greg Prevost’s “Brown Sugar”-esque approach on the new album. A bluesier, heavy-hearted cover electric version of Love’s classic “Signed D.C.” is one of Universal Vagrant’s definite highlights; it’s an inspired gutsy performance. The fab new self-penned song blues-Rocker “Evil On My Mind” is cut from the same cloth as Howlin’ Wolf’s timeless “Spoonful,” in that it creates a sinister, late-night mood – especially with Greg’s driving blues harp and Keenan Bartlett’s Hammond B3 organ, along with Zachary Koch’s rock solid drumming.
Muddy Waters’ obscure “Mean Red Spider” is an unusual, but typically inspired choice. It has more of that Chesterfield Kings garage-rock type sound which we all know and love, even as a blues cover. “Shitkicker Blues” wouldn’t have sounded too out of place on the Chesterfield Kings’ uneven but honest 1990 album Drunk on Muddy Water, a straight blues project, although this new song features more of Greg’s natural, spirited vocals.
The ballad “Lord Shine a Light on Me” has more of a Southern R&B flavor to it than I’ve ever heard Greg Prevost do before. It’s similar to the Muscle Shoals-influenced sound we know from the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers sessions. The obvious, mid-tempo first single “Hayseed Riot” is perhaps the most straight-ahead rocker of the whole bunch, with its tale of a bored country boy headin’ for the city. A strong, passionate cover of the classic Buffy Sainte-Marie tune “Cod’ine” provides a wonderfully muscular closer for Universal Vagrant.
If you miss hearing the Stones’ early-’70s sound, then you’ll definitely enjoy the hard, blues-rock direction Greg Prevost has taken up here.
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