Ricky Warwick - 'Stairwell Troubadour' (PledgeMusic) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Thursday, 24 September 2015 03:00

rickystairwellcover300This time last year, Ricky Warwick found himself undergoing something of a cultural renaissance, recording not only the second Black Star Riders album but also not one but two PledgeMusic-funded solo albums – one acoustic and one electric (as reviewed by Über Rock back in January). At the time of recording the latter, he kept his supporters entertained by posting a series of videos he called ‘The Stairwell Sessions’, comprising of him, well, sitting on a staircase with just an acoustic guitar rattling out cover versions of not only some of his favourite songs but also a few quirky little numbers as well. Such was the success of this aspect of the campaign that Warwick almost immediately decided – as revealed in his subsequent interview with Über Rock TV -  to head back into the studio just as soon as his hectic schedule allowed and record of a selection of fan-picked highlights.


And, so, here we are. Ladies and gentlefolk, we present to you the ‘Stairwell Troubadour’. It’s certainly an eclectic and unusual collection of tunes – from pop “classics” by the likes of Dead Or Alive and Britney Spears through the formative rock ‘n’ roll stylings of Eddie Cochrane and Elvis himself to country, punk and heavy metal... and even a reworking of one of The Almighty’s back catalogue.


Thankfully, Ricky decides to get the two pop songs out of the way at the very beginning. ‘You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)’ initially has that “I know that from somewhere” feel to it, as he gives it a stripped-back countrified treatment, only the chorus making it recognisable as Warwick twists the song around his little finger and gives it a new, fresh identity. ‘Oops!... I Did It Again’ is perhaps the strangest choice on the entire album: maybe it’s the paternal side of him coming out, but again he metamorphizes the song into an almost totally unrecognizable form, even adding in an acerbic electric guitar line under and over the basic acoustic treatment.


The first “proper song” if you will is a faithful and energetic rendition of Eddie Cochran’s ‘Summertime Blues’: it’s not a spectacularly different rendition, but Ricky’s affection for r’n’r’s roots shines through. Warwick really stamps his identity on the project, however, with ‘1000 Dollar Car’, in which his blue collar East Belfast roots shine through as he questions the logic of obtaining the item of the title. Then comes ‘Cocaine Blues’: if you didn’t know any better, you would swear on your mother’s grave that it is the Man In Black himself on lead vocals, so close does Warwick emulate the mighty Mr Cash. And, yes, it’s a brilliant version of the song.


‘I Don’t Want To Grow Up’ is the heaviest song of the collection, with its distorted electric guitar background underpinning Ricky’s acerbic vocal and punchy guitar. A special mention must be made here of Tim Boland, a multi-talented multi-instrumentalist who accompanies Ricky throughout most of this aural journey, be it on guitar, percussion, Hammond organ or whatever else is needed. His performances subtly underpin that of Warwick and add an understated depth to the overall delivery of this carefully picked collection.


‘I Fought The Law’ is raw and ragged, with Warwick paying homage to Strummer with his naked vocal, while his beaten up solo acoustic treatment works superbly. And then comes his version of Presley’s ‘Burning Love’… again stripped back to just Ricky’s vocal and acoustic guitar, it is guttural and spine tingling in equal measures: you can picture the snarl on the moustachioed upper lip as he delivers his acidic vocal in a way which sounds like it was recorded in a single take.


It may be an album of covers, but it doesn’t stop Warwick delving into his own back catalogue, as he delivers an awesomely joyful yet vitriol fuelled version of ‘Jesus Loves You… But I Don’t’. And just when you think there couldn’t be any more surprises, he reworks Iron Maiden’s ‘Wrathchild’ into a stunning, flamenco-tinged ballad which will surely go down as one of the best cover versions ever laid down.


As I said at the outset, this is an eclectic and unusual collection of tunes. It’s one put together by a fan for fans. And, yes, God-fuckin-dammit, it works. Well done, Ricky, for having the balls to take the chance on doing an album like this…




Ricky Warwick is currently undertaking a series of acoustic dates, with Black Star Riders bandmate Damon Johnson, across the UK, which finish at one of Über Rock’s favourite venues, the Diamond Rock Club in Northern Ireland, on Saturday 26 September.


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