Finding Rivals Sons was another one of those happy circumstances for me. If a friend, who had worked with the band at one occasion, had not mentioned the band to me, I might not have been aware of them. At least not as early on. I would not have reviewed every one of their albums. I might not have seen them live. Might not have done one of these behind-the-venue-just-before-they-go-on-stage interviews with guitarist Scott Holiday. I might have discovered them for myself eventually – after all, they turned up on the soundtrack to the Hugh Jackman robo slugfest Real Steel – but that wasn’t even necessary. Because there was a friend, she knew the band, and she is one of those good people who will tell you about great new bands if she has the feeling you will enjoy them. You know, the kind of friend you want to keep around.
Jay Buchanan (vocals), Scott Holiday (guitar) and Mike Miley (drums) may only have been Rival Sons since 2009 (with Dave Beste replacing Robin Everhart on bass in 2013), but they already have four studio albums out, with some of the finest blues rock and rock and roll with a certain 70s throwback feel that is currently on the market. With their third album, Head Down (2012), they also delivered some of the best and most intriguing storytelling in their songs – not just for Rival Sons, but in any music I know. It is a trend that did not quite continue with 2014’s Great Western Valkyrie. In many ways, the similarities as well as the difference between these two albums can be found in the (both beautifully shot) videos for Keep On Swinging (off Head Down) …
… and Open My Eyes (off Great Western Valkyrie).
Both great songs and both great records, but the first feels deeper, has better storytelling and is more unique, while the second feels more interchangable (while still distinctly Rival Sons). And Keep On Swinging isn’t even the song on Head Down that has the strongest storytelling elements. For a lesson on how to write this kind of song, listen to All The Way or The Heist.
Now, I could easily say ‘If you buy only one Rival Sons album, make it Head Down‘. But then, why would you only buy one? They are all worth it, all the way back to the self-released Before The Fire. It’s just that some are even more worth it. And by some I mean Head Down, with which the band has set a gold standard for themselves they have yet to (fully) beat. Somehow I believe that they will do that, though.
Releases (studio albums only):