All those who like stories of fall and redemption will maybe think a lot of gift is needed to start again from scratch or almost from scratch. The Reverend Black Network knocks down a cliché as old as Rock and Blues themselves, according to which every artist, every band, creates or plays to get over some wounds.
Lionel Raynal aka The Reverend takes it the other way. His explanation is unanswerable: if he started music to improve his life, now it’s his life which is improving his music. 35 years of career, burning Rock shivers and languishing Blues basking. 35 years to travel the world and share the stage with big names (Screamin’Jay Hawkins, ZZ Top, Status Quo, Popa Chubby, Johnny Winter, Ritchie Blackmore, Lucky Peterson), to sail on musical waters with his different bands, The Reverend Blues Gang (2000), The Reverend (2007) and The Reverend & the Saints (2010). And records too (four), recognition, success, before getting lost in the excesses, the pleasures. To get over the fence. To sink. To doubt. Lionel Raynal goes through the worst of time and suffers a thousand ills. To bend but not break. To keep the thread of his own story, find back self respect, the confidence of others, surround itself with love to start it all over again and “Get the pleasure back, to play, to do what I love most, to fight again and please the audience” he confides.
2012. Out of the shade and into the light again. To go back to the roots. The roots of the Rock, the roots of the Blues, inspired by Warren Haynes, ZZ Top or Joe Bonamassa. To get back a friendship damaged by the abuses, the one of Patrick Baldran, an exciting guitar player and enigmatic human being, ex Fool Moon and companion of adventure in the Reverend Blues Gang (co-founder!) Let’s forget and forgive the acts of war, the opposite streams, the disappointments, the daily slopes they had to get over. To make some music, still and again, and to build another band, The Reverend Black Network. The heavy and precise playing of the drummer, Patrice Pillon, and the expertise of the bass player, Bruno Maurin (4 and 5 strings) complete the new band.
The band quickly goes back on the road to find the enthusiasm and the shivers of meeting an audience. The charisma of the Reverend is still there. The voice is still powerful, deep, harsh, intact. To repaint the walls of its music, the band returns to the fundamentals of American rock, widens the spectrum of its musical expression by getting down to the writing of its own compositions, fed by Patrick Baldran's songwriting. And finally they dare printing this creative emulation on this album, the first one, Hell or Heaven.
Hell or Heaven was conceived like a barbecue party. The album, recorded in three weeks in DGD Studios near Paris by Nicolas Roy, sounds like it, a well-cooked bunch of pork chops, braised, melted fats, hot, served with a delicious tar sauce, in a cloud of bitter smoke. The recipe is simple, it’s the Reverend Black Network favorite one. The good old Classic Rock, 70’s version, sealed as it should be, and delighted to be tortured on the grill of audacity.
The songs are heavy, most of the time, they sweat, they bleed, and sometimes they dance smoothly in the flames of Lucifer. Here the Rolling Stones meet Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Govt Mule and Joe Cocker.
The album has a powerful, fat and melodic sound which owes a lot to the influence of Chet Himes who has become a very popular partner since his illuminator's works beside Christopher Cross, ZZ Top, Van Wilks and a list of other big names too big to list. Invited over by the group to appropriate a sound which smells like leather and Road 66, Himes brought his innate sense of space, balance and his infinite range of sound climates. Thanks to him, Hell or Heaven is exactly this: a primitive dialogue between a strong and at the same time soft voice, accomplice guitars, a bass with badly combed strings and an abused drum kit which learnt its vocabulary with the biggest ones.
Any freedom is good to take, to conquer relentlessly and to tear away if needed. This album, Hell or Heaven, is in a way the rich rhyme, the line after, the following of a story which only asks to be printed and grow…