Gus McKay | Roadrunner Blues

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AUSTRALIA - Western Australia

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Blues: Slide Guitar Blues Rock: Roots Rock Moods: Solo Male Artist
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Roadrunner Blues

by Gus McKay

Like a deluge of soul drenching summer rain... ! powerful, beautiful, and gritty. Australian Roots & Blues songs. Born under a billion stars, nurtured and distilled in hot desert soil, songs with vision higher than an eagle's eye
Genre: Blues: Slide Guitar Blues
Release Date: 

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Tracks

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1. Hustle
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3:43 $1.69
2. The World
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3:57 $1.69
3. Roll
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4:22 $1.69
4. Drifter
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4:05 $1.69
5. Keep On Driving
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4:02 $1.69
6. When the Drought Sets In
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4:36 $1.69
7. Two Days To Kununurra
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4:20 $1.69
8. Don't Go To Queensland
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4:22 $1.69
9. Ramblin'
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4:09 $1.69
10. Texas
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3:21 $1.69
11. Newsreader Blues
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4:17 $1.69
12. Dogma
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6:22 $1.69
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Contemporary/cross over blues roots with Delta and Chicago leanings. Electric and acoustic “Galvo “ resonator, sounds like the road, leaves you with a sense of space, urging you to get in your battered old Ford pick-up and drive … away and give your mind to the songs.




Reviews


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Review by Matthew Forss

Album: Roadrunner Blues
Western Australian native, Gus McKay, stirs up the desert sands Down Under with a swirling set of roots, bluesy, and rock-laden tunes on guitar, Hammond B-3, and harmonica. The raw, earthy, galloping rhythms and sounds are more cohesive than a Bob Dylan song with the vocals of a more aged-version of fellow countryman, Xavier Rudd, and Tom Petty. Roadrunner Blues sets the stage for world-class blues and roots music.

“Hustle” begins with a little, guitar ditty with Gus’ unmistakable and earthy voice reminiscent of Xavier Rudd—albeit a more mature version. The giddy, gritty, and bluesy tune is interrupted with drum-kit and a few wailing, slide guitar notes that work up to a frenzy near the end of the song. Overall, the song meanders along in perfect form. This is an ideal accompaniment on a road trip through the Outback. “The World” opens with a bristly, percussive rattle, and a pensive, yet bluesy, slide guitar sound. The rhythm is not completely different than the previous track. However, “The World” contains a bluesy, rootsy, and folksy overtone with the addition of a Hammond B-3 and harmonica filling out the instrumental repertoire for the latter half of the song.

“Roll” opens with a drum-kit solo that delves right into a bluesy guitar line with Gus’ uncanny vocal delivery that is rather reserved overall. Gus’ vocals cross paths with Dave Matthews, Tom Petty, Xavier Rudd, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. The song contains similar guitar lines with the previous tracks, but the vocal nuances and varied tempos make it all worthwhile. “Drifter” is the first dissimilar track on the album, but it still contains the iconic blues and roots rhythms that make Gus’ music inviting. The drum-kit rhythm and guitar line contains a moderate tempo, but the vocals lack speed. The Hammond B-3 kicks in with the guitar, but the fast-paced, road-tripping percussion set keeps in sequence. This is for the drifter in all of us.

“Keep On Drivin” contains a road-tripping and truck-driving ballad with drum-kit and jaunty guitar lines that keep truckin’ along. Gus breathes life into the electric guitar stylings, which drive the song into a place of aural beauty. “Two Days To Kununurra” opens with a raw and acoustic guitar set with Gus’ vocals joining the mix of light percussion sounds. The harmonica enters the picture mid-song and does not stop until the end. The punchy harmonica playing matches the galloping percussion and guitar rhythms with effortless simplicity. “Ramblin” begins with a slow, acoustic guitar set-up with folksy, Jakob Dylan-esque vocals. The slide guitar sounds add a touch of steel drones that echo the pains and joys of past memories.

Gus McKay’s down-to-earth compositions border on folk, blues, roots, and rock music with a classic, innate ability to create original sounds and memorable tunes. Gus’ rather rudimentary and lethargic vocalizations add to the raw power of stripped-down music-making. The relatively similar melodies on a few tracks are worth mentioning. Yet, the music displays enough dynamics to warrant an engaging listening session without fatigue or boredom. The mix of diverse, but similar artists, attests to the musical complexities inherent in Gus’ music. Anyone with an interest in the Bruce Springsteen, Bob & Jakob Dylan, Tom Petty, Xavier Rudd, and Chris Isaak will appreciate the rural ramblings of Western Australia’s latest blues master. The vocals and instrumental arrangements are very similar to the aforementioned artists. Overall, Roadrunner Blues contains jamming, road-friendly tunes that make perfect, aural companions on long, hot, rides through the Outback in a Land Rover.

Review by Matthew Forss
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)

Reviewed by Matthew Warnock

Album: Roadrunner Blues
The blues has gone through many transformations over the past 50 years. From the Delta and Chicago blues with their traditional approaches to the genre, to the Texas blues with all its flash and guitar work, to the blues-rock revolution of the late ‘60s, the 12-bar form has been twisted and turned in countess ways to fit the artistic needs of the musicians that play and love this classic American music. While the surge of such guitarists as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jonny Lang and Joe Bonamassa has pushed the blues to virtuosic levels, there is something to be said for an artist that takes a more simplistic approach to the genre. With a strong focus on groove, interesting melody lines and driving rhythm guitar work, Gus McKay is a bluesman that knows how to dig into the foundation of the genre and bring a high level of emotion to his songs without using flash and chops to do so. His latest record, Roadrunner Blues is a collection of 12, well-written blues tracks that dig deep into the rhythmic side of the genre, and the result is absolutely first rate.

Songs such as “Roll” are a great example of how McKay uses rhythm to build energy and create interest in his writing and performance. The track lays back at a slow, bluesy tempo with 2 and 4 accents on the snare in a way that will get the audience bobbin’ their heads and tappin’ their feet along to the strong pulse of the track. The resonator guitar lays down a simple, repetitive lick that further accentuates the slow groove that sits way back in the pocket. Most musicians, in any genre, would have to work at making a slow tempo such as this groove hard, but McKay and company make it sound easy. With all of the focus on flashy guitar work in recent years, it is sometimes easy to forget how powerful a strong groove at a slow tempo can be when applied to a simple blues progression. McKay is an artist that looks to bring the maximum emotion he can teach each and every track, and his understanding of groove and time goes a long way in helping him achieve this goal.

The album is not all laid-back tempos, though the majority sit in and around those grooves. Songs such as “Drifter” take a more up-tempo approach to the blues. With its long, one-chord vamp and repeated guitar lick, the song takes its time to grow, building energy as it rolls forward. Like a freight-train moving along the countryside, the song’s pulse steadily drives the beat home as the instruments enter and leave the mix, adding different layers or orchestration to the arrangement. Again, this is McKay digging deep into his creativity as he looks for different ways to build interest and audience engagement with his writing, and he succeeds on all fronts.

Where other artists would play a screaming guitar solo, McKay lays down a simple slide-guitar melody line that achieves the same result. Where others would fill space with licks and runs, McKay leaves space or introduces a new instrumental timbre. These are the things that make his playing and writing stand apart from the crowd, and are two of the biggest reasons why this album is so successful. McKay’s musicianship and musical maturity shine through on each track as he works his way through each of these 12 well-written and creatively arranged songs. Flash and chops definitely have a place in the blues genre, but sometimes the most powerful statement is made by laying down a solid groove and letting the music speak for itself.


Reviewed by Matthew Warnock
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)

Gus McKay

Rhythms Review
GUS McKAY
Roadrunner Blues
Independent

As opposed to country blues, this new CD by West Australian troubadour Gus McKay is blues for the country. The guitar and harmonica playing singer/song-writer evokes vivid imagery of the great Australian outback in songs about life on the road, roaming lonely highways and long dusty tracks. McKay's smoky vocals, slashing metal bodied guitar and wailing harp are backed on most cuts by tastefully effective stripped down accompaniment on bass, drums and occasional Hammond organ that engenders a stark, earthy sound as distinctly Australian as it is of the Mississippi Delta. Unrelenting boogie rhythms are as befitting in 'Hustle', 'The World', 'When The Drought Sets In', 'Two Days To Kununurra', 'Don't Go To Queensland', 'Texas' and 'Dogma' as they are in a John Lee Hooker tune. 'Keep On Drivin', the work song 'Roll' and 'Newsreader Blues', McKay's ode to a certain ABC television anchorwoman, show his funkier side and 'Drifter' rushes along like a road train, counterbalanced by the contemplative ballad 'Ramblin'. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes gritty, McKay's songs are created in the hot desert soil and refined under a wide open sky.

Al Hensley

Luc Meert

Roots-time Belgium
After the first hearing was "what monotonous" our first note. In the second, this was replaced by "most pleasant" and after the third listen, we were completely won over by this piece of Gus McKay. The Australian has "Roadrunner Blues" a damn fine picture delivered. You can call nimble but the music fits perfectly with the images he wants to evoke lyrically. You are inclined to like after listening to country blues to describe but, however, calls the singer-songwriter rather accurate, vivid images of a desolate, great Australian outback. Riding along deserted highways and occasionally hitting a dusty side road is "Roadrunner Blues" is the perfect travel companion for this trip.

The smoky, raw voice, wailing blues harp and summary bass and drum accompaniment in totality provide for an earthy, stripped-down sound that winks to the Mississippi Delta.Passionate is the least you can ask. The rare boogie rhythms, such as opener "Hustle" and further "The World" will be relieved by proper war rawer, threatening to what John Lee Hooker tributary tunes. The deliberately simplistic approach to the blues with delicious rhythms and driving string lines ensures a constant high level with songs full of emotion.Twelve excellent songs that you, as I said, give a perfect traveling companion that you may enjoy as well, leaning back in your seat with a glass for company.

We must admit that Gus McKay was a stranger to us to date. I can guarantee I will be looking to earlier work by this born musician. Slightly rocking, floating on more than pleasant rhythms and a narrative voice. Have to bear with this album, the wait will be rewarded. Pure class this man.

Luc Meert

www.rootstime.be