WKW: Men of Steel
Self-released – wkwmusic
Big Country fans are in for a treat with WKW, the side project for current Big Country guitarists, the Watson father and son duo, and collaborator Thomas Kercheval. The debut album, Men of Steel, fills a gap for those who are missing new material from the unique sound of Dunfermline forged in steel back in 1981.
There is no doubting the roots of WKW. From the first bars of Edison’s Last Stand, the anthemic quality Big Country fans came to expect from the band is abundantly apparent, reflecting the early sound of the band on The Crossing & Steeltown. In fact, if you look at the album artwork, the signs are all there before you listen to a note. Take, for example, the album title Men of Steel, the roses peeking out from the armoured helmet. Then, on opening the CD jewel case, the image spread across the cover is reminiscent of the famous press shots of the band from the Steeltown era with industrial chimneys in the background, this time though, they are at sea and covered with guitar necks – an image from the cover of their earlier EP.
Nine carefully selected and recorded tracks make up this eminently listenable album. Six originals written by the band, alongside two Stuart Adamson tracks. They are accompanied by a traditional Burns penned song given the WKW treatment. Killiekrankie has a guitar line, break and an ending that bring to mind the emotional soundtrack the band wrote for Restless Natives.
One of the Adamson tracks featured is the Big Country song Troubled Man from the No Place Like Home era. One of those songs that you listen to and wonder if Adamson was reaching out? The song is dealt with sensitively and is a fitting tribute to the great man.
The other song is Nationwide, a demo he wrote in 1977 when he was with The Skids. The song reflects its background with full on punked-up credentials and paints a picture of the roots of Big Country with its insightful lyric.
Sweeping Widescreen Anthems
The original songs are sweeping majestic widescreen anthems as you would expect, with titles and subject matter that hark back to the Big Country days. For the discerning listener there are several references to listen out for. Watson and Kercheval share the vocal duties. There are times when Bruce sings that bring real WTF moments, if you didn’t know otherwise you would swear Stuart Adamson is singing. At times, the album combines more traditional folk associated instruments in with their rousing rock sound. Fans will be pleased to hear the familiar and welcoming sound of one of Big Country’s trademarks. The e-bow is present and correct.
Elsewhere, on Rose Red Sunset, the drum rolls ensure the song could be a welcome follow up to Where the Rose is Sown. Smoulder thunders in with rumbling drums and has a vocal reminiscent of Inspiral Carpets Tom Hingley. While the albums last track combines Stranglers-esque keyboards with the bands trademark sound forming a two-part epic in the vein (if not the sound) of Porrohman.
A most welcome surprise for a dark and miserable January.