Deep Blue Sea, Strange Ways, album review, Rock and Blues Muse

By Mike O’Cull

UK blues/rockers Deep Blue Sea have an amazing new album called Strange Ways that dropped September 24th, 2019 on Razor Edge Records that will make fans of real rock and roll get up and move. Based in London, Deep Blue Sea is a four-piece female-fronted outfit with a style that touches on everything great about roots music and is driven by old-school songwriting talent and playing skills. The band seamlessly connects vintage blues/rock, stomping rockabilly, reggae, and more in its tight, intelligent songs and does it in a way that captures the intangibles in those genres, not just the guitar licks.

The Deep Blue Sea lineup of Dregas Smith on lead vocals and keyboards, Iago Banet on guitars and backing vocals, Graeme Wheatley on bass guitar and backing vocals, and Amanda Dal on drums, percussion, and backing vocals writes their material together and the four-way partnership works exceedingly well. Recorded at The Music Complex, Deptford, London and produced by Graeme Wheatley and Chris Mansell, the tracks on Strange Ways have a sublime live sound to them that flies in the face of the larger-than-life over-processed sound that’s become the norm in our digital world. The entire crew captured the dry, right-sized sonics of four people playing music in a room. The record has the immediacy and grit of the vinyl sides that set us all off in the first place and it’s truly a thing of beauty.

From the first notes of the opening song “Rock Star Status,” it’s clear that Deep Blue Sea is a practitioner of bare-knuckle rock and roll. It hits just the way it should, right in your faceplate without too much reverb or too many overdubs. The song, like the entire set, sounds like a killer small band that simply set up and began playing. Dregas’s vocals are big and bold at the center of the mix, while the guitar, bass, and drum tracks around her are organic and warm. Iago Banet’s guitar solo is well-phrased and articulate and definitely turns up the heat a few degrees.

“Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You” takes the energy up a gear and Dregas belts her lyrics over an insistent, up-tempo groove that’s an instant party-starter. The “Peter Gunn” riff in the middle of the guitar solo is a fun touch and harkens back to the Clapton/Mayall Bluesbreakers use of the same figure in their version of “Hideaway.” “Falling” is a hip-shaking jam with a hint of James Gang to it and keeps the blues/rock/garage vibe going strong. It goes into a dark middle section that’s a bit of a surprise and will make you think of The Doors for just a second before the rock kicks back in and Banet delivers what may be his best guitar solo on the record.

By this point, you’re probably thinking you’ve got this album figured out but the ones who hang out for the deeper cuts will experience Deep Blue Sea’s eclectic gear-shifting power. “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” is melodic funk/pop that’s smooth and vibrant while “IntroMental” gets into full-on garage/surf/instrumental territory and gives Dregas a break from the microphone. Banet turns in some revved-up guitar work here and the rhythm section keeps everything blazing behind him. “No Pasaran” mixes rock steady and funk beats with punk-ish chromaticism and “All My Yesterdays” has a rockabilly/cowpunk attitude to it that’s roadhouse certified and guaranteed to pack the dancefloor. The title track, “Strange Ways,” is nearly seven minutes of brooding social commentary about the moment “when the music stops and the bodies drop.” The band handles this more serious moment well, building from a whisper to its usual rock scream and sinking back again.

Deep Blue Sea does things its own way, obliterates genre lines at will, and has an album in Strange Ways that’s going to open a lot of doors for the group in the very near future. This is no-frills roots rock that’ll cure your mainstream pop blues and get you thinking about the right stuff. Highly recommended.

Deep Blue Sea Online