Don’t mess with him. He’s a black belt

Last year when Theresa May called an election and her hubris rather hilariously cost her a majority, MV went to vote in the infant school we’d started at in 1980. This was 200 yards from the house that we’d lived in for 32 years (which in itself was less than half a mile away from where we’d lived before). So, to all intents and purposes our lives had moved less than a mile in 40 years.

Raven Cain is the exact opposite. MV had always thought that Steve Earle was arguably the most troubadour of all the troubadours. Not so. According to the bio that comes with his mammoth new 20 track album “Oblivious” along the way he’s done the following things He was raised in an ultra-religious cult, with his mother, a father who was an absent musician and a stepfather who abused, poisoned, and almost killed him. His family fought hopeless poverty and substandard living conditions his whole childhood. Devoting his life to his two passions, Music and Martial Arts, Raven is currently a 6th Degree Black Belt. And along the way he has found the time to work with The Guardian Angels, become a Buddhist Priest, and be co-founder of a martial art.

No wonder there’s a song here called “I Lived It”…..

That one is interesting too, because rather like the Shooter Jennings classic “Outlaw You” he takes the opportunity to vent on all the wannabes who play country without having a clue. Not that this is overtly country. Rather it is a mighty southern blues collection – and rather like the man who plays it, you second guess him at your peril.

Lead single “Bad Boy” does the southern rock chugger thing brilliantly, but he’s equally adept at the acoustics, as “My Addiction” proves,  and if anyone disputes the absolute glee that abounds here, then the horns and organ that accompany the slamming “Son Of The South” washes any doubt that remains away.

Largely, this wants to fight the world – and you’d best stay out of his way if you ever wronged him. “DTA” settles scores a bit like GnR’s “Get In The Ring” way back when, while the absolutely superb “Outlaw Way” is like if the Georgia Satellites played a benefit gig for the Sons Of Anarchy.

Resolutely unapologetic, “Rebel City” offers that if “you want to see the redneck in me, put me on a stage and let me sing” but this is not a record that is afraid to tackle big issues. “Hell Yeah” puts child abuse front and centre, “House Of Amazing Grace” deals with faith, and “General Lee” is a cathartic way to deal with his own childhood hurt.

For a record that is so resolutely rabble rousing, a couple of the quieter moments really steal the show. “Plane To Utah” is steely determination made flesh: “ain’t no dream that can’t be actualised” could almost be his mission statement, and the quite superb “One Foot In The Grave” is even better. Live your life. Now. Is the message here. And it is one that Raven Cain clearly took to heart.

Capable at various points too, of being both funky, as on “Loaded Gun” and devil may care on “Shove It” it,  “Oblivious” is one of the most thought-provoking and diverse Southern rock records of the year. On the Lionize infused dirty grooves of “Scars” he talks about turning negatives into positives. “No one should die without scars” he sings.

Whilst we differ and say it would be fantastic if everyone had a wonderful life. Records as good as “Oblivious Bliss” don’t get made without a little pain.

Rating 8/10


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