Earlier this month Night Beats released their fifth LP, Outlaw R&B on Fuzz Club Records. In it, Danny Lee Blackwell steers the band back to its raw, acid-fried roots in a blaze of technicolour glory. It follows 2019’s Myth Of A Man LP (Heavenly Recordings) and last year’s ‘That’s All You Got’ 7” featuring Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Robert Levon Been; a haunting country ballad to add to the already expansive range found within the album.
Made during the height of the California wildfires (where Blackwell now resides), rioting in the streets and a nation in lockdown, Blackwell describes Outlaw R&B as a record “bathed in post-apocalyptic bliss”. Outlining the album’s mission statement, he continues: “Outlaw R&B is music for the borderless, the free, the outcasts and the forgotten. Through this medium you escape the confines of mental feudalism and bask in the euphoric glow of psychedelic R&B. The outlaw is the runner. Those whose minds aren’t sold by perfect pitch and clean fingernails.”
With four albums now behind them – their self-titled 2011 debut, 2013’s Sonic Bloom, 2016’s Who Sold My Generation and 2019’s Myth of A Man – Night Beats have garnered a reputation as one of the finest purveyors of contemporary rock’n’roll hedonism around. They’ve clocked up critical acclaim, toured across North and South America, Europe, Asia and South Africa and shared the stage with the likes of The Black Angels, Roky Erickson, The Jesus and Mary Chain, BRMC, The Zombies, Black Lips, Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees, among many others.
Highlights include ‘Hell In Texas’ which recants Abrahamic gospel country by way of Marty Robbins, Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb. Coupled with a steady outlaw country backing band of his own creation, Blackwell’s haunting voice lingers with Wanda Jackson-like allure. He says of the song: “Inspired by a mysterious postcard found in a curiosity shop in Texas, I built the story of a jealous Satan making a deal with God over land in Texas.” Raised by Hindu and Catholic parents, Blackwell’s religious upbringing is something that constantly appears throughout his work: “I’d usually skip ahead in Bible study as a kid, straight to the most psychedelic verses in Revelation or Leviticus.” ‘Ticket’ is a fast-paced number which sets the heart racing with its motorik beat and insatiable appetite and ‘Holy Roller’ which features spoken lyrics and offers something distinctly garage. ‘Stuck in the Morning’ is a jangly piece of psychedelia and ‘Revolution’ is a piece of glam rock that even a certain Mr Bolan could be proud of.
In Outlaw R&B, Night Beats may return to their roots, but they also demonstrate how far they have come as a band with how easily they traverse sound and genre. Their skills as musicians is unrivalled and this is easily a contender for album of the year.