It’s tough to bounce back when you’ve been one of the ‘ones to watch’. The Midnight Ramble were one of Liverpool’s most promising rock ‘n’ soul bands as the noughties turned into teenagers. They rocked, but remembered to roll, and the horns that blasted through their best songs made the Scouse six-piece stand out from the pack. But it was the singer, Paul Dunbar, who captured the attention of most people.
A great voice is a funny thing – even if it’s undeniably good, taste always comes into the equation and Dunbar’s bluesy rasp was an acquired flavour to begin with, with the bluster brought to the table by The Midnight Ramble not always showcasing the guts coming up for air when the singer opened those lungs. That band released three albums and hovered on the periphery, but now Dunbar wants to soar, as out have gone the soul and funk workouts, and in their place a bright, driving FM sound. It’s slick… but the earth is still under Dunbar’s feet.
Backed by The Black Winter Band, the grooves are now taut, the guitars as tight as a pinch from a vice and Dunbar’s songs have found the space to breathe. Brand new single, ‘Barely Holding On’, is the Scouser’s first shot across the solo bow and it’s made for daytime radio. Sounding like a long-lost and remastered Bruce Springsteen outtake, the tune hits the spot with a great chorus, infectious melody and cumulative power.
Derivative? Perhaps. The Black Winter Band tip their hats to the rock greats, tread a well-worn path and, sure, nine more mid-paced rockers of a similar vibe will see Dunbar boxed in from the start – but there is enough in this three and a half minutes to suggest that what follows will be as attention-grabbing as the singer’s pipes.
‘Barely Holding On’? Paul Dunbar and The Black Winter Band have tight hold.
Paul Dunbar & The Black Winter Band
Friday, September 23rd, Leaf on Bold Street, Liverpool
Pic courtesy One Fell Swoop