The best secret weapon in Black Country Communion’s armoury is their ability to make music that sounds like it could just as easily have been made 35 years ago, in terms of musical directness and honesty. That was true of their first two albums and it’s true of Afterglow too. There’s a kind of magic that happens when Joe Bonamassa, Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian play together, and it’s all over opening track ‘Big Train’ and its follow-up, ‘This is Your Time.’ This isn’t blues-rock: it’s bluesy rock music.
One of the more surprising aspects of Afterglow is the continued strength of Glenn Hughes’ voice. Man, this guy is into his sixth decade and seems to be singing at the very peak of his powers, swinging easily from an R&B-influenced tone to all-out rock screams. Hughes also has an enviable level of connection with his material. Y’know how some vocalists don’t seem to know what actual words they’re singing? Hughes makes you believe every syllable.
But for guitar fans the big draw is obviously Joe Bonamassa. Over the last few years Joe has gone from ‘next big thing’ to ‘guitar star’ and he has ample room to flex his musical muscles here, whether the spotlight is on him for a solo or if he’s hanging back to play a restrained but perfectly nuanced rhythm part. He shifts easily from Zep-inpired riffs to John Sykes-esque soloing to that mix of complexity and directness that characterises his own musical voice. It’s fun to hear him shifting through so many different gears on this material, and his guitar tones are beautiful, nodding back to classic rock but with a more modern touch when appropriate. Sherinian also gets special mention for his brilliant solo on ‘Confessor,’ while Jason Bonham is also very commanding throughout the album. Check out how he drives ‘Common Man.’ It’s practically a ‘lead drums’ performance.
Some moments of Afterglow are surprisingly outside of the established BCC voice, such as the Humble Pie-meets-ZZ Top ‘Cry Freedom,’ but if you loved the sound the band established on their first two albums you’ll feel pretty comfortable between the headphones here.