Red Mesa, the brainchild of Albuquerque, New Mexico based guitarist/vocalist Brad Frye, first tickled our senses with their 2014 self titled debut release "Red Mesa" a stunning debut that mixed subterranean doominess with large doses of dusty desert rock drive and southern rock swagger. Life, however, does not always run smooth when your in a band and after a while Frye found himself as the only remaining member of Red Mesa. With a slew of songs and riffs revolving around in his head Frye decided to carry on and with the help of Empty House Studio's Matthew Tobias on drums and with additional lap steel, guitar and bass contributions from John McMillian and Alex McMahon (and with the help of a crowd funding campaign) this makeshift band entered the studio, the result of which is a brand new album entitled "The Devil and The Desert".
Acoustic guitar introduces first track "Devil Come Out To Play" followed by Frye's voice calling for the horned one to join him in revelry, the guitarist/vocalist's voice distinctive and clean tinted with a pleasing drawl asking, pleading for the Lord of the Flies to "take my blues away". This one song alone sets the tone for the rest of the album and signals a whole shift in direction from the proto-doomic bluesy bluster of the bands previous album. Where "Red Mesa" took it's lead from the more raucous end of the stoner/hard rock spectrum here we find Frye toying with a more refined and down home dynamic, still rooted in the blues but with a more country/Americana edge, Frye even going as far as throwing in some jazzy fusion like colouring on the beautiful "Springtime In The Desert". This is not to say that Red Mesa have totally abandoned their more raucous roots as can be witnessed on the gritty blues drenched "Sacred Datura" and the swaggering hard rocker "Route 666", it is however on those songs with a more sedate and restrained groove like "The Devil's Coming 'Round" and the eastern tinted "Desert Sol" that this collective really shine. Having said that it is the more doomic and dark title track "The Devil and The Desert" that is the highlight of the album, Frye's vocals here taking on a gruffer, throatier tone as he rages over a dark backdrop of doomic groove, underscored by grumbling, growling bass and thunderous, pummelling percussion, a groove around which Frye also weaves swirling lead lines and crunching riffage. Even here, with the band hitting their darkest and dankest groove, Frye cannot help but throw in a lysergic and heady mid-section to keep us bewildered, bemused and on our toes.
"The Devil and The Desert" is a brave and courageous album especially when you consider, that after releasing such a well received debut, Frye could easily have taken the easy route and followed up with just more of the same, thankfully Frye opted to take a different path which has resulted in a more rounded and more complete release which will appeal to both those already familiar with his previous work and those coming to it anew.
Check it out ....
© 2018 Frazer Jones