Blues in Britain is really booming right now it seems, and new young stars like Oli Brown are already set to be challenged by even younger stars on the horizon. This Lewis Hamilton is not the racing driver of that name – but he is on the fasttrack to success, having made a name for himself in his native Scotland and recently touring as support to German Bluesman Henrik Freischlader during part of the latters UK Tour.
Gambling Machine is an eclectic mix of Blues based titles. True to the bands name it kicks off with a shuffle beat boogie riff on the title track that has a faint echo of Lynyrd Skynyrd in its bones. ‘I got to know’ is in a similar vein but freshened up by virtue of a nice sax break and a fine honky tonk piano solo from Lewis’ cousin Steve. Indeed the band is quite a family affair – Dad Nick is on bass. I wonder what it is that brings so many fathers onto stages on this instrument? I’m thinking The Brew and Krissy Matthews on this, both of them also allow ‘parental control’ of their rythm section. Certainly it’s the shuffle beat boogie numbers that the musicians here sound most comfortable with and what the band seem to do best right now – standard fare it’s true, but with an excellent guitar solo to raise it above the average bar-room boogie band. Straightforward numbers like ‘Life on the Road’ with it’s straight ahead boogie and the closing ‘There you are now’ with just Hamilton’s guitar and Fraser Speirs on Bluesharp are safe and enjoyable Blues outings.
There’s the standard slow blues here too, as on ‘Living in a Bad Dream’ and ‘Crying Shame’ which owes more than a nod to the guitar style of Peter Green. Both are enjoyable but unexceptional numbers, which is the problem. Hamilton is in a crowded (and talented) British Blues pond, and if he’s going to stay afloat it will be by showing he has something unique to offer. It’s a bit unfair though to expect wonders on a first release from an eighteen year old, and credit to him that there is a lot of promise shimmering like unpolished diamonds in the less Bluesshuffle oriented numbers. On ‘Opposite Motion’ for example it sounds like Hamilton is trying too hard and the track stutters a bit uncertainly, but it’s pinned together by a tasty sax solo and most importantly, it’s daring to be different. The same is true of ‘The Getaway’ where Hamilton gets his Telecaster on a runaway Country fiddle lick that Hank Williams would be proud of. ‘Phatitude’ has bags of promise too, with it’s enjoyable funky start before it settles back into the basics.
There’s nothing really new on this disc then, but what you get is good solid Blues to enjoy, and that’s is no bad thing. Indeed, if Hamilton can hone down the rough edges on the numbers where he dares to be different there could be a lot to look forward to. Certainly someone to keep an ear out for on future releases – and if you’re feeling musically chronically underbluesed then ‘Gambling Machine’ is just what the doctor ordered.