Rise & Shine

(Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group)

‘Rise & Shine’ …a phrase I heard many a time from my late father, too early in the morning! But his military background as a Sergeant Major never left him, we his hapless offspring his platoon…but the phrase also heralds the return of funky psych-rock trio from Nashville. Don’t expect that smooth compressed Music City recorded sound, Simo exploit the dynamics of the power trio to the maximum and long may they continue to do so. I fan J D Simo’s flame by giving him albums by Tony Remy and The Groundhogs! even this young master player hasn’t heard everything – yet – and he sure wants to. Curiosity is the fuel in their tank as a band but they are at the same time deeply rooted in stone blues, Southern Soul and many mind-expanding acts that we guitar bores can talk about for an eternity. The Simo approach gives bassist Elad Shapiro and drummer Adam Abrashoff a lot of space to run wild in and they step between tight groves and Bitches Brew sound-building. The songs are important of course but more so the delivery and embellishment, as their first album for Mascot confirmed, with no emphasis on self-consciousness. A Faces vibe perhaps with Eddie Hinton or Wes Montgomery leanings?  If that sounds tempting, let’s go through the tracks. An hour’s worth of fresh music.

First track on this set is Return with its slow and steady wah tread, worthy of Spirit. The vocal is conspiratorial and the band sound like an evil machine coming to life. JD Simo has said that the idea was to construct a fresh soundscape for each number. As I pretty sure that was The Beatles’ aim with Rubber Soul. Around the two and a half minute mark the group edges into a buzzy fluid guitar run. Still much is held back, allowing the great lyric to be savoured. Meditation sounds like a trip to the desert, camel train rhythm and all. The guitar starts to howl now again over the treated vocal. An ascending chordal passage evokes vintage Pretty Things, sounds brilliant. Terrific drum sound here, too. The axe travels a trilling path and the bass propels the ghostly sound forward.

Shine is aggressively-paced and almost sounds like Hawkwind, JD employs an urgent singing style, the sounds rolling around within the backdrop. An impressive rock song but brought to more than life by these three,,sounds more like a car chase but it’s strangely attractive and catchy. A sudden change of tempo and it’s like Freddie King In Space for a few bars! People Say gives us amp-tremelo’d funk guitar and an impassioned vocal..reminds me of Living Colour, no bad thing at all. This lad sure uses the wah with bite. Don’t Waste Time sound sinister, Simo singing in classic rock-blues mode like a dangerous Whitesnake on the prowl. Fuzz bass growls out of the mix and around the two minutes a sardonic dirty guitar solo slides out of the track.

I Want Love calms us with an expansive ballad sound, real by-the-lakeside territory and a neat falsetto vocal that will remind you of Curtis Mayfield. As the sound thickens then drops back, the listener’s attention is cemented. The bridge hints at a carnival timbre. Affecting words. A fine inclusion, here. The Climb takes us into the wilderness, its dark riffing howling into the dark. The guitar takes a stately cinematic theme over the busy tempo. Light The Candle takes the Spoonful riff on a hallucogenic trip through on a trip though Gotham City with other-worldly slide guitar spinning almost out of control. A somewhat Beefheartian backdrop for a very positive message, it must be said. It’s back to the lonesome Memphis tremelo sound for Be With You which I seem to recall they were including on their last gigs here.

The Light gives us an acoustic interlude, at a tempo which made me think Jonny Lang was about to sing! The ghost of Leadbelly visits this one, you can smell the pines. Last track I Pray is a sort of soul mantra, heading off into contemplative heights on a propulsive musical cloud in waves of delay…..

Three musicians crafting a new album with eyes and ears on what is happening in the disturbing world around them. A globe wracked by tension and abrasion, taken off course by mad political and allegedly religious forces. This high-octane guitar music brings positivity and its own power. Sometimes it might sound a tad over-intense, but it is all from the heart, using technical proficiency rather than existing to display it.

Pete Sargeant


(Thanks to the Mascot crew) Simo’s second studio album ‘Rise & Shine’ is released on Friday 15th September 2017 on Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group. 

Simo will perform a headline show at The Borderline, London, United Kingdom on Tuesday 26th September 2017. 

Tickets are available here:

Explore the music and travels of Simo by heading to