Bárbara Black – ‘Ad Libitum’ (Self-Released) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Tuesday, 07 November 2017 04:20

Barbara Black artworkEvery now and then, an album comes along that, with its opening note, grabs you by the balls, pins you to the nearest wall and snarls right into your face, saying “you WILL listen to me”! The opening slide riff of ‘The Hill’ does just that… and then Bárbara Black – the Spanish singer/songwriter behind this particular slam dunk opening move – opens her throat and, holy fucks and all the fucks in the Überverse, I’m punch drunk right from the off…

 

I must admit, the press release that came with this CD wasn’t exactly inspiring, mentioning as it did her winning some form of “rockferendum” two years in a row and an appearance in a Queen tribute show… but, then I spotted references to collaborations with Danny Vaughn and the Burning Kingdom project, and my interest was very firmly piqued. And it was still further when that slide slid from the speakers, slithered its way across the floor and embedded itself in my eardrum. The dobro gives way to a crunching main riff, before the singer uncurls her lithe frame from her black leather sofa (hey, I’m only judging by the accompanying photos) and steps up to the microphone, to reveal a voice that is equally lascivious and luscious. Her enunciation is sheer perfection, and you cannot get help but the feeling that she is holding back and there is much more to come…

 

Which, of course, there is. ‘Nice To Meet Me’ is lewd and rocks like a toreador being flung around on a bull’s horns, merging southern-influenced country riffs with hard rock melodies with an easy ability. ‘Non-Human person’ sees Ms Negro easing back on the pedal to produce a power ballad that just pulls back on the power but possesses enough gazump that, in the hands of one of those ridiculously over-paid Z-Factor producers it could soar to the top of the charts without a second blink.

 

The blues harp-dobro duality returns with the full-on country stonk of ‘Ghost’, which starts deceptively before exploding into an almost vicious hard rockin’ slap in the face, complete with background death growls, showing the versatility of this artist’s range and ability, before she turns it back around on itself. ‘A Girl Has No Name’ builds from a genteel acoustic and voice workout into a fiery gospel-fuelled chorus before disappearing back into its melancholia and then re-emerging on the crunching choruses; surprisingly, this is one song where you feel the singer is really holding back, but it works all the better for her lack of dominance, which perhaps could otherwise have ruined a damn fine song.

 

 

She’s not afraid to let go, however, on the power ballad ‘Shiva’: this is the sort of song Jim Steinman can write in his sleep – and, on hearing this, he’ll probably wish he had. Negro’s voice is raw and ragged, which contrasts beautifully with the pristine sheen of the piano and the alacrity of the guitar motif. But, it’s only a brief respite, as BB punches straight back into rockin’ action with the lively jive of ‘Island Of Youth’: can you send me the GPS co-ordinates, please, ‘cos I’d like to book a flight for tomorrow morning…

 

Second single ‘Southern Soul’ is another song of contrasts, mixing soulful blues with a romper-stomper of a fiery guitar display, with BB moving gracefully up and down her impressive range to bring out every nuance of its moments of light and shade… And the little laugh at the end is just a small signal as to how much the singer obviously enjoyed making this album. ‘Bessie’s Song’ is a slice of pure piano-led gospel, complete with choir, and to be honest this is the only track on the album that completely passed me by…

 

Nevertheless, by the time we reach the final quarter of the album, there is a feeling that it has run out of steam. ‘Stardust’ has a grunt and growl to its riff, and the vocal still retains a degree of passion, but it lacks the vibrancy of what had gripped so much in the first half a dozen songs: yes, there’s an urgency to the guitar, but it almost feels like that’s a “hey, let’s get this done” type of approach. ‘Alabama Rose’ goes some way toward restoring the balance – well, it is just her and an acoustic guitar, so it’s pretty hard to go wrong – but probably could have benefitted from being placed higher in the tracklisting rather than in the end of night latter section. And closer ‘Love Murders’ is a fairly standard hard rock song which, despite the flamenco interlude at the two minute mark, actually stands quite at odds with much of the country-blues feel which pervades the first half of the album, as if both the singer and the band can’t really make up their mind what they want to do with both the song and the opus as a whole.

 

 

I love da blues. I love rock. I love when the two are combined with passion and feeling. And I love a great female voice. By and large, this album – well, definitely the first half of it - ticks most of the right boxes in all of these regards. It’s just a pity that, in the second half, it disappears up its own arsehole in search of something buried in its innards that it can’t quite expunge.

 

‘Ad Libitum’ is out now. You can get your copy HERE.

 

All content © Über Rock. Not to be reproduced in part or in whole without the express written permission of Über Rock.