Inside Outlines is a beast of a blues rock album from guitarist, singer/songwriter L.R. Marsh – and it comes as quite a surprise.
His previous LP, The Ghosts Of, was an intimate, bedroom-produced affair of the blues-roots variety, showcasing his nuanced talents on the acoustic. But with this new release, Marsh goes in for the full studio experience, exploring a big, brash sound with a nod to Queens of the Stone Age and early Led Zeppelin, while also managing to maintain strong links with the blues tradition.
As well as a change of direction for Marsh, Inside Outlines, bucks the current trend of smaller recordings produced by the pandemic, as artists have locked down in their home studios. But in a time when we have been denied our regular diet of live music, this LP is a very welcome thing; with its volume and energy, it is a record to remind us of the live experience – and in that sense, it is very timely – hopeful that we are now on the verge of opening up to it again.
For those who have followed Marsh, however, this offering should not come as any real shock – he is an excellent live performer, who made his mark playing in a similar fashion with previous Adelaide outfit, Filthy Lucre.
The album announces its intentions a few bars into the opening track, “Getaway”, with a blistering explosion of riff-rock that follows the bait-and-switch of an unadorned intro of just vocal and guitar. And then it never really lets up from there.
It’s not all heavy stuff, though, with the second half delving more into a customary blues aesthetic – particularly in embracing the story-telling traditions of these antecedents. On “Devil and the Black Dog”, Marsh finds himself very much in Steve Earl territory, complete with some tasty slide guitar and a tale to tell. Meanwhile, “Take It Slow” does exactly that, providing the album’s most pensive moment and acts as a pleasing counterpoint to the rest of the material.
Other album highlights include the thumping grove of “Inside Out”, “Whiskey, Wine and Beer” – with its unashamed dive-bar mood, and the funky riff-work of “Mother Mary”.
The record then comes to a close with an accomplished cover of “Goin’ Out West”, taking the Tom Wait’s song down a desert rock path that really works.
Inside Outlines is a confident record, highlighting Marsh’s talent for song craft and his excellent guitar work. As a rare example in current music that celebrates this kind of playing, it is a joy for the ears.
L.R. Marsh will perform live in Adelaide on 20 November, with further details available here. Inside Outlines is available from Fri 22 October.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor