Tony Cini, main man of Sydney blues rockers, The Arc Riders, is a pretty good friend of mine. Tony has lots of friends in the blues and roots-rock fraternity, being a champion of the form and a tireless worker and advocate of this still-energetic and surprisingly popular music. For years the front man of The Ginhouse Blues Band, Tony is well loved and regarded as a ‘Superhero of the Blues’.

The Arc Riders have just released their debut album, The Arc Riders. As a friend of his, am I cool to write this review? Well, real friends don’t bullshit each other, especially about music, so let’s start there.

The-Arc-Riders-Tony-Jan-1

And, anyway, I find the things I like about The Arc Riders are the same things I like about Mr Tony Cini. The music is passionate and gutsy, pumping with a big heart and a sincerity that rings true. Too many current blues releases now go for a “fake authenticity” borne mostly out of kids playing a grown-ups’ game. Cini has been around the blues-block enough times to have paid his dues in spades. On the liners he thanks (among his friends and players) Elvis, Hendrix and Irish hellhound Rory Gallagher – even though the spirits of all three wash over the album, it is Gallagher’s rough, ready and very human ghost which gets in all the cracks and blows through the tracks.

The production of the album also has veered from the current vogue in blues of garagey roughness and flailing loudness, in favour of a lean and focussed energy that is deeply informed by Cini’s blues-rock roots in Ginhouse and earlier in 70s hard-rockers Geeza. No fat here, kids – all killer, no filler. The-Arc-Riders-CD-1

Having members of Chase The Sun as the core power trio for the album helps – Jan Rynsaart‘s leads come coiling out of the speakers like rattlesnakes snapping; he has always been a heartstopping player and The Arc Riders documents some of his best recorded work: ‘Rattlesnake Shake’ is dazzling and the triplet trills on album opener ‘Illawarra Train’  will send guitarists back to the woodshed. Heavy friends such as Lachy Doley on keys, Cameron Henderson on stinging Telecaster and the wonderful Cass Eager all help to flesh out this satisfying and rich album.

Cini lets the band groove and breathe, even letting them stretch out and jam in the codas of a couple of tunes – which gives The Arc Riders a nice live feel, letting the energy flow. The quieter acoustic pieces – such as the rustic cowboy lament ‘Out on The Western Plain’ – sit among the hard blues tracks as welcome breathers, very lovely in their own way, the passion cooler and calmer.

The Arc Riders works well across all the styles Tony has written for. The tunes are strong, the band kicks it and Cini’s sincerity and depth of true feeling stays direct, unsullied by a fussy production. His influences are there, but a lifetime of playing and breathing music has made his sound his own.

Published February 2016 on theorangepress.net

 

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