Energetic and exciting funk/rock blues band Blues Attack released their impressive debut album, Bringing Down the House, back in November 2021. The 5 piece band from Istanbul takes us on a varied and powerful genre-spanning musical journey. Their sound is a kaleidoscope of smooth, melodic vocals; tight bass and drums; rhythmic guitar; Hammondesque keyboards, and a peppering of brass and soulful backing singers. The band is innovative and different from anyone I have heard before. Throughout the whole album, some of their diverse influences really stand out. Hints of Jack Bruce’s (Cream) soft and mellow vocal style, West Coast guitar work, and when they turn up the volume and rock, shades of Deep Purple fill the speakers. The band is made up of Sezen Köroğlu (keyboards), Tarkan Mumkule (guitars) and Batur Yurtsever (bass) who were already household names on the Istanbul live music circuit and had been playing together backing some of the top musicians and singers in Turkey. Prominent musicians in the Turkish blues scene, Güray Oskay (vocals, guitar, harmonica) and Hasan Ali Polat (drums) joined the other three in 2017 and the group was formed.
When the world shut down with Covid-19 restrictions in 2020, the band used that time to compose and record 10 original tracks featuring an eclectic collection of blues/rock to hip-shaking funk. They brought in the following guest musicians for the album: Serkan Emre Çiftçi (trumpet), Özgür Şengül (saxophone) Göksenin Tuncalı (backing vocals) Bengisu Öcal (backing vocals) Pelin Özülkü (backing vocals) Burak Ocakçı (harmonica). The opening track “Once and for All” delivers a steady bass line and solid uncomplicated drums with wah-wah tinged guitar riffs and breaks. With smooth and controlled vocals, Güray Oskay sings about taking back control of feelings after a relationship whilst the brass section and beautiful choppy Hammond organ alternates with the soulful backing singers. A clever nod to their Turkish roots is the use of quarter tones before the chorus, a pitch often heard in Eastern music. They are there but easy to miss. The clean guitar breaks sounding at times like Steely Dan or the Eagles, soulful and melodic, and tastefully done. One of the things so innovative about this band is the use of the keyboards, horns, and backing singers to create appealing and sophisticated musical layers.
More of a blues/rock feel follows with “In for the Kill”. Solid drumming and driving bass provide the rhythm for Oskay’s vocals about a dangerous woman who lures people into her lair. The track is laden with punchy guitar solos and a tight-knit brass section during the chorus. About halfway through the track, the layers are stripped back, and we experience a melodic sound of muted drums, bass, and funky keyboards. As the track draws to an end, the trumpet is given the wah-wah treatment. Reminding me of “Sivad” by Miles Davis, this unusual effect reinforces how creative Blues Attack are. “I Need Time” is one of the funkier tunes on the album, features a solid bass line, simple and powerful drums with syncopated guitar, and keyboard notes. The notable horn section blasts its way through this track, reaching a perfectly timed and placed crescendo during the chorus. The subtle saxophone together with the brass is reminiscent of Grand Funk Railroad. After another funky blues tune, “Long Gone”, comes the title track “Bringing Down the House”. The funkiest track of the album is fun to listen to, immediately danceable, and gets your toes tapping instantly. I can just imagine how this particular song goes down at a live gig. It perfectly combines a solid bass and drum rhythm with the much loved and tuneful brass/keyboard and backing vocals combo.
The next three tracks move away a little from this funk/rock blues concept, showcasing their talents in other genres. “Down a Winding Road” kicks off with jangly guitars and pop sounds. It’s melodic, uplifting, and soulful. Oskay’s vocals are clean, often sounding like the Lighthouse Family or that 80’s smooth and easy listening style. The pace slows right down with the next tune, “Little Isle”. Closing your eyes and listening to the sustained guitar sounds, delicate bass, and rimshots rather than a full-on snare drum, transports you to a tropical island where the lyrics tempt you to daydream. It’s slow blues with a sound not unlike Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”. “Country Joan” is an interesting next track. Its title suggests the band’s venture into country music and the beginning of it certainly gives you that impression. As the track builds the brass and sax section takes over and Oskay introduces a telephone mic effect to tell the story. The chorus reverts to a country style and a catchy chorus. The backing vocals sound like a steam train (or maybe that’s just me!) and the whole song makes me feel like I’m on a journey to the deep country, maybe somewhere like Texas. “Reaper On Wheels” is a blues/rock masterpiece. When Blues Attack really rock out and go for it, I hear Ian Gillan from Deep Purple when Oskay belts it out. It’s rocky, tuneful, and rhythmic. The album closes with “Trucker Blues”. A fitting end to this band’s debut album. An upbeat blues/rock piece that doesn’t fail to please. The harmonica makes an appearance towards the end together with some cleverly constructed guitar work. Blues Attack is a band to watch. This is their first album, and judging by the quality, innovation, and sheer energy, it won’t be their last. Maybe soon, after this gets back to some normality, they will tour internationally. I will be putting my name down to see them for sure.
Written by Juan Brooks
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