“Across the Divide” – Federal Charm

4 stars (out of 5)

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Across the Divide TitleDifficult second album? Not having that; this is Federal Charm we’re talking about here and this is just another step on the way on the way to blues/rock domination. It’s been over two years since the debut album and they haven’t wasted that time. They’ve toured on their own and as support for the likes of Ian Hunter and Rich Robinson, working on the songs at their own pace between tours until they were confident that everything was ready to go. It’s a lot like the live performances; it’s not about pyrotechnics or twenty-minute guitar solos, it’s about four very good musicians playing a bunch of well-crafted songs. The confidence in their own abilities shines through without coming over as the cocksure arrogance of some lesser bands; they don’t need that kind of ego trip. But what about the album?

Well, the opening song on “Across the Divide”, “Master Plan”, gives a pretty good idea of what the album’s about. It powers in with a mighty guitar riff but this is a long way away from leaden-footed four to the floor dad rock. Even within the first song there are twists and turns, breakdowns and full range of dynamics. And it’s not just about the two guys upfront with the guitars; LD Morawski’s bass and Danny Rigg’s drums play a vital part in the overall sound, as the drummer deals with shifting rhythms and the bass is used as a third guitar, contributing melodic parts (“Silhouette”) rather than the thudding root note we hear way too often.

The big guitar riffs are all there, from the opening chord riff of “Guess What” to the riff and melody combination of the lead track “Hercules”, the wah-wah psychedelia of “No More” and the toppy, choppy riff of the funky “Push” (with the lead vocal sounding a lot like Glenn Tilbrook), Nick Bowden and Paul Bowe’s guitars form constantly shifting patterns under Nick’s stunning vocals. Federal Charm sound just as convincing with the slower songs; “These Four Walls” is a powerful break-up song and the album’s closer, “Walk Away (Time & Time Again)” works its way up through the gears towards a solo which sounds like vintage Brian Robertson before fading out on a piano coda.

“Across the Divide” confirms the impression created by the debut album; these guys have all the ability and all the songs plus the confidence to get out there and deliver where it really counts. They’re currently on the road with Joanne Shaw Taylor before setting out on their own headline tour; get out and see them, you won’t regret it.

Across the Divide” is out now on Wire-Sound (WIRED 35).