rock-o-the-north

It may be premature to suggest as much but are we on the cusp of a brave new era for rock-orientated singer-songwriters capable of so much more than strumming a guitar and growling heavily into a low slung mic?

Rock and metal, by its very nature, is hardly geared towards solo artists packing nothing more than a semi-acoustic and a tiny amp. There are those who insist rock isn’t rock without a beefed up backline and heavy as shit rhythm section. But there are at least three world class entertainers out there right now who would surely beg to differ.

When fronting The Almighty veteran crooner and LA resident Ricky Warwick is, quite simply, a wild metal beast. Yet somehow the grizzled vocalist manages to retain his trademark aggression and passion while transferring many of his back catalogue barnstormers and stunning new tunes to the stripped down arena that is the solo acoustic stage.

With nowhere to hide Warwick doesn’t even bother to try. Admitting that singer songwriters are, for the most part, crap he merrily sets about disproving his own theory. And then some. Those who witness his support slot on the current Love/Hate tour will confirm as much and it seems the world is suddenly Warwick’s oyster. Hard rock does suit a softer setting after all. And there’s no time wasted lugging heavy equipment on and off the stage of into the back of a rusty old van.

As Frank Turner will testify. Rushonrock’s favourite former Million Dead singer has become quite adept at pitching up with his six-string weapon and a drop of whisky, slaying the American locals on any given night and then jumping in his manager’s car en route to the next date – most recently in support of The Offspring. Long since ditching the ear-bashing gear that made Million Dead essential cult listening in their prime, Turner is leading the new generation of singer songwriters ready to rock.

Don’t think David Gray. These guys come from a background where riffs rule and watching Warwick this week demonstrated the point. For the most part hunched over his instrument strumming every last note out of every song, this was no laid back display on the road to live retirement. Neither Turner nor Warwick ever looked or sounded this powerful as one part of a bigger rock beast. Appearances can, it seems, be thoroughly deceptive.

And Chuck Ragan says so to the power of three. His fabulous Gold Country record rocks the hell out of most of this summer’s so-called essential releases and suggests his day job as a member of Hot Water Music might be under considerable threat. Like Warwick and Turner before him the multi-talented muso has found a fresh new outlet for his creative juices and they’re gushing forth in 2009.

Suddenly it’s so cool to be a singer songwriter in the butch world of rock and expect dozens of Warwick wannabes and Turner-alikes to emerge in the next 12 months. Whether they can keep pace with the standard bearers for an exciting new genre remains to be seen but the more the merrier in our humble opinion.