I made the point in a review recently, that blues and prog – however much I love them – are two genres that always scare me when it comes to reviews. The people who make this music and listen to it, in the main, are so steeped in it that a dabbler like me looks like a chancer.

And there’s a bit of that with Big Wolf Band. Local to me in the West Midlands, to see Jonathan Earp and the lads, is always a guarantee of class. But even more on “Rebel’s Journey” feels like they’ve grabbed a bit from a sort of “blues buffet” and stuck it all out there.

“Empire And A Prayer” is simple.  cruising about in your car, there’s an American feel to it, and its lyrics give the album its title, but what makes it is the solo. And that’s true for all of the album.

There’s something of the Western plains about “Valley Of The Fallen”, epic and dry as dust. “Lay It On The Line” adds a huge dollop of class and the Hammond Organ gives it a classic feel. The musicianship is – as ever – is superb. Indeed, it feels that even for BWB, have put even more of themselves into this.

“Rise Together” almost feels like it is there to remind the band about “this road we call a home”, and this seems to be a record about music, as much as anything, given that “Six Strings Loaded” reasons that it’s good to be back.

Jonathan Earp – the man behind the band – has always been skilled, though. “Black Dog Blues” is almost perfect blues, and brings forth some real pain to the surface. Indeed, he’s been vocal about the importance of this to his physical and mental health. Here, it feels cathartic.

A superbly adept album. “Standing In The Rain” is a bigger, bolder epic – and the guitar playing makes it. It has echoes of early King King (and praise gets no higher) indeed, there’s a bit of a flavour of that throughout. “Living On Borrowed Time” is another where it seems personal: “I gotta stop dark thoughts intruding” sings Earp, and a special mention for organ player Robin Fox who vies for the MVP award here.

“Got Me Reeling” has other things on its mind, its soul is definitely after something, and “Crazy Love” has evidently found it.

“…Journey” is a record, though, that is better when it broods. “Darker Side Of You” is a case in point.

Above all, though, this is a record played by people who love The Blues. “Just A Little Bit”, with its really clever use of backing vocals from Zoe Green proves that, beyond any reasonable doubt.

And that’s the case as it ends, too. “Too Many Times” speaks out against war, and it is a shame no one is listening – but like Billy Bragg once said: “War’s always been the bosses way, sir”.

“A Rebels Journey” marks their tenth year as a band – and having seen them at the beginning I can say this with a fair degree of certainty. Wherever that road has gone, this journey makes it all worthwhile.

Rating 8.5/10

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