By Terry Marland, Rock At Night Wales
Review: The Cold Stares’ album Heavy Shoes – Mascot Records/Mascot Label Group – Release date August 13, 2021
The inspired cover art work of Heavy Shoes gives the listener fair warning of the dark content of the tracks on this the “Cold Stares” fifth album. The day of the dead scenario with group members Chris Tapp ( chief songwriter, vocalist and guitarist ) and Brian Mullins
(drums and percussion) held at gun point, by those that have gone before, signals the wonderfully shadowy and atmospheric substance of this, their heaviest album to date.
Tapp’s personal experience makes him well qualified to delve into the darker side. As an isolated child aged 10 he discovered that he had been adopted. Later he found his grandfather, who he “emphatically loved”, dead having taken his own life. More ancestral skeletons were discovered when learning that his great-aunt had been abused by the local sheriff and deputy resulting in his great grandfather killing both men and serving a six day jail sentence.
In 2009 Tapp was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given six months to live. Mercifully he is still with us and declares “I’m saying what I want to say a little more concisely and elegantly” That certainly applies to the collective songs here that represent the band’s most rock inspired release so far acknowledging Led Zeppelin, The White Stripes and Free among others. The album is awash with killer riffs and an absorbing back beat that produces a grittier sound that is the perfect accompaniment to Tapp’s earthy vocals.
The album opener “Heavy Shoes” has previously been reviewed as a single release by Rock at Night has a penetrating guitar riff and a solid back-beat that sets the tone for the album.
View the video here.
The brutal “40 Men Dead” centres around a soldier who destroys his surroundings just to get home. Tapp says the song is “a metaphor for being sucked into a fight be it politics or religion and focussing on going back to the things you really love”
Another single release, the Stax inspired “In The Nigh-time ” invokes a soulful vibe that conjures up images of a cautious midnight city stroll. Here’s the video.
“Take This Body from Me”, has vocal overtones of early Thin Lizzy and a pounding riff that permeates throughout the track. Elsewhere dark themes continue to be explored: “Save You From you”(Addiction),Election Blues (Manipulation), and “Prosecution Blues” (Emotional Torture)
The moody and windswept “Dust In My Hands” closes the album focusing on a man, stripped of his possessions. Looking through iron bars he sees “Spirits walk across the desert floor” and “Wolves howling out their names” maintaining the undercurrent of mystery and despair to the final track.
The Cold Stares sing about what they know and have produced an authentic blue collar blues album that is highly recommended.
- 1. Heavy Shoes
- 2. 40 Dead Men
- 3. Take This Body From Me
- 4. Hard Times
- 5. In The Night Time
- 6. Strange Light
- 7. Prosecution Blues
- 8. It’s A Game
- 9. Save You From You
- 10. You Wanted Love
- 11. Election Blues
- 12. Dust In My Hands
13. Hard Times
ABOUT The Cold Stares:
The duo, originally from Western Kentucky, is guitarist-singer Chris Tapp and drummer Brian Mullins, who have a friendship that dates to their early twenties when they were in bands together. They went their separate ways then to only circle back a decade later. “A buddy of ours asked us to open the show for him. We ended up doing that, but we were so adamant that we weren’t going to be a band that we didn’t hire a bass player or anything else,” remembers Tapp.
Since their debut album in 2014 (A Cold Wet Night and a Howling Wind) they followed up with three more releases; Head Bent (2017), Mountain (2018) and Ways (2019), with new album Heavy Shoes to be released on 13th August, their first for Mascot Records.
The bands’ music has also featured on several TV adverts, shows and games, including CyberPunk 2077, ESPN, X-Games, Monster Energy, TNT’s Animal Kingdom, and the Dodge Motor Company and they have gone on to have an incredible 20m+ streams.
Early 2020 the band returned to the fabled Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Nashville to record Heavy Shoes. “We did our Ways album there, so it very much felt like a continuation of that. So, it was familiar and pretty much the same cast of characters,” says Mullins. Much of the album was recorded there, with three additional songs recorded at their own studio in Indiana.
Mixed by Mark Needham (The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Fleetwood Mac) and mastered by Andy Vandette (Beastie Boys, Kid Rock, Smashing Pumpkins), Heavy Shoes is their heaviest record to date.
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