Old Man’s Will, Hard Times – Troubled Man: The Boogie Blues (Plus Album Stream!)

old man's will hard times troubled man

[Please note: Press play above to stream Old Man’s Will’s Hard Times – Troubled Man in full. Album is out today on RidingEasy. Thanks to the label, PR and band.]

What works so well about Hard Times – Troubled Man is the vigor with which Old Man’s Will carry across its foundation of classic boogie rock. Listening to the unpretentious Swedish four-piece, who capture warm tones in the dark cold of Umeå — a northern town known for being the birthplace of Meshuggah and Refused — they make little attempt to hide their ’70s affinities, their Graveyard influence or their penchant for swinging their way into a memorable hook, but there is a vitality at the core the material that only emphasizes how much the sound of then has become the sound of now. Comprised of eight tracks totaling a manageable 34 minutes, Hard Times – Troubled Man perhaps oversells a sense of melancholy between its cover art and title, but there’s plenty of blues to go around.

Also Purples, since the record finds vocalist Benny Åberg a commanding, Ian Gillan-type presence at the fore of opener “Fools” as guitarist Klas Holmgren, bassist Tommy Nilsson and drummer Gustav Kejving strut and stamp behind. “Troubled Man” follows with immediately locked-in groove as Åberg recounts numerous woes of losing a job, getting kicked out, etc., but the chorus and the verse alike are catchy, so even as Old Man’s Will proffer downtrodden vibes, they do so in an upbeat, good-time spirit. The contrast ends up being one of the album’s great strengths, building on what Old Man’s Will were able to do with their 2013 self-titled debut on Transubstans prior to hooking up with RidingEasy Records for this, their second album, but keeping a live feel in the proceedings that plays well alongside their roots in the heavy of yore.

One has to imagine that when they inevitably do the biopic about RidingEasy RecordsOld Man’s Will‘s “Easy Rider” will be in there someplace, but for now the track stands among the strongest hooks of Hard Times – Troubled Man, and “Ratking,” which follows, fleshes out along bluesier lines — complete with a sax solo — on what could easily become a signature piece for the band, as clever lyrically as it is in its subtle instrumental build. Coupled with “Easy Rider,” it shows the songwriting prowess at the core of what Old Man’s Will do, and while the ultimate result is bound to be familiar to those schooled in the development of the band’s genre, there’s little denying the edge that they bring to it or the skill with which they execute those tenets. Even on a cut as in-the-gutter as “Ratking,” Old Man’s Will emerge clean.

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Åberg delivers a soulful performance that’s as fluid in its range as HolmgrenNilsson and Kejving are in sleeking up around it. And in a smart bit of sequencing, the more low-end-minded fuzzer “Got It” follows, tipping back into faster swing and earning its late handclaps as “Troubled Man” earned its cowbell, Holmgren turning in a particularly engaging solo while Nilsson, from deep in the mix, holds the groove tight. I’m not sure if “Got It” is the lead-off for side B or the finale of side A — I’d guess the latter, based on runtime — but “Hazel Eyes,” which follows, brings back the cowbell to underscore another landmark hook of layered vocals, fuzz bass and drums that seem to have taken the ethic of “Easy Rider” to heart. Holmgren meters out another bluesy lead, and just when the track has lulled the listener to a pure state of hypnosis, a kind of instrumental drawl taking hold near the end, the rush of “How Could You Know” snaps one back to a reality of earthy, boogie-laden fuzz.

The dynamic that works through on side B is hopefully prescient of where Old Man’s Will are headed overall, and while they’re not the first to transpose ’70s ballad melancholy onto revivalist heavy rock, seven-minute closer “Another Seven Days” does it especially well, Mellotron adding spaciousness while the lyrics play out scenarios of too much not being enough and push coming to shove and so on, Kejving keeping it classy with light cymbal washes and tom hits as the guitars and bass play out dreamy wistfulness. One might expect the song to explode into a final bout of raucousness, but the vibe holds steady, and they cap instead with a nah-na-na sing-along that does indeed build to a head but stays well within the parameters of what the emotionality of the track has warranted. It is an inviting and engaging finale, and makes for one more instance by which Old Man’s Will showcase how they’ve made this sound their own and what they’ve been able to bring to it.

It’s a long fadeout, but one could hardly accuse them of overstaying their welcome. Instead, Hard Times – Troubled Man plays out with steady efficiency of purpose and execution, and while it may be that the band is their own method of catharsis for all that beat-down bluesery, it seems like sooner or later these guys are going to have to confront just how much fun they’re having.

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2 Responses to “Old Man’s Will, Hard Times – Troubled Man: The Boogie Blues (Plus Album Stream!)”

  1. Shawman Journey says:

    This is why I love reading your blog on a daily basis for finding gems like this all the time! Love it, Thanks Obelisk for your hard work and dedication

  2. […] Will are streaming their new record Hard Times – Troubled Man; listen below courtesy of The Obelisk. The album arrived last Friday, October 2nd via RidingEasy Records, with copies available […]

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