By Adrien Begrand
While extreme metal fans worldwide continue to wish like hell that 2008’s Carcass reunion tour would turn into something more permanent, Bill Steer’s musical passion has led him down a very different road, the guitarist eschewing death metal for some good, old-fashioned heavy blues rock with his trio Firebird. Consistently churning out five albums in ten years, the band doesn’t exactly go out of its way trying to reinvent a sound that countless British bands have been reliably churning out for the past 40-odd years, but when it’s done well, it can be immensely satisfying. And Grand Union is just that, 41 minutes of comfortable blues jams that range from the swaggering (“Blue Flame”), to the wistful (“Lonely Road”, the Robin Trower-esque “Caledonia”), to the downright raucous (“Four Day Creep”). At times Steer’s vocal limitations leave us wondering just how incredible these tunes would be if the late James Dewar was still around to add some welcome UK soul, but Steer’s earnest singing is nevertheless likeable, especially on such well-chosen covers as James Taylor’s “Fool For You” and Dusty Bennett’s “Worried Mind”. This is an album that never overdoes things, its simplicity and complete lack of pretension making for a warm, genial, very fun summer listen.
(Rise Above/Metal Blade)