Atomic Road Kings
Clean Up The Blood
Big Tone Records
This is the Atomic Road Kings debut recording but the individual members are not new to lovers of the blues. The core band includes Big Jon Atkinson, lead, rhythm guitar and vocals, who came to prominence with his third album, 2016’s “House Party at Big Jon’s” recorded with Bob Corritore; thirty year harmonica veteran Eric “Jailhouse” Von Herzen, whose influences include Little Walter, and who played with Walter Trout, Kid Ramos and Junior Watson; Bill Stuve, bassist extraordinaire, who recorded with Jimmy Rogers, William Clarke, Rod Piazza and The Mighty Flyers, and countless others; and drummer Malachi Johnson who has also recorded with many artists, most recently with both Johnny Tucker and Kim Wilson.
The album was recorded live to tape, and then mixed and mastered by Atkinson at his Big Tone Records studio in Bristol, Tennessee. The twenty-eight year old Atkinson records using vintage all analog 1950’s equipment to get that preferred old school sound. Although Atkinson sings on all the tracks he only plays lead guitar on four and rhythm on four more. The album features three other outstanding guitarists whose contributions are equally important to the recording. Nine of the eleven songs are originals written by Atkinson.
Guitarist Danny Michel also played on the “House Party” and he takes the lead on the opener “I’ve Got Time”; on “Ain’t For Me”, and on “Vibrations” with Bob Welsh sitting in on piano. Tony Delgado plays lead guitar on “Rumors”, a harp showcase for Von Herzen; while Scot Smart does the lead on “In Arms Reach”, and on the shuffle “Candy Man” written by Von Herzen.
Atkinson’s strong vocal clarity is a pleasure as Von Herzen’s deep melodic harp dances about throughout the recording. We finally get to hear Atkinson’s guitar leads on “Pave Your Way”; on the fabulous “My Way Back Home” with Johnson’s big beats; on “You Got to Change”, and on the title track. Atkinson plays rhythm on the only cover, “Two Sided Story”, credited as traditional. The most remarkable thing is Atkinson’s restraint; he does not dominant or hinder the bands abilities, but remains content to produce a memorable product.
Their sound is so good that I wish the band would tour in support of this recording. It is impossible to get too much of the Atomic Road Kings.