Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
The 3 - Gospelbilly
Musical Style: Blues Rock Produced By: Guy Prier
Record Label: Indepenent Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2017 Artist Website: The 3
Tracks: 8 Rating: 70%
Running Time: 26:34

The 3 - Gospelbilly

I have always been a connoisseur of blues-rock, particularly when it is of exceedingly high quality.  My favorite group within the genre is Glenn Kaiser Band, which as its namesake suggests features iconic front man and guitarist Glenn Kaiser of revered Christian hard rock veterans Resurrection Band.  The GKB discography attributes to four turn of the century ‘hard rocking blues’ albums, including Winter Sun (2000), Carolina Moon (2001), Blacktop (2003) and Octane (2008).  Also of worthy note are Big Chris & D’Bare Bones Band, whom on its 2016 debut When Your Time Comes takes an ‘in your face and rocked out blues direction’, and Stevie & The Saints, with its 1987 debut Metal Blue integrating a strong blues flavor with straightforward hard rock.  Finally, guitar virtuoso Rex Carroll forsook the melodic metal of his signature group Whitecross for the heavy blues-rock of the 2010 release, That Was Then, This Is Now, of his new project The Rex Carroll Band.     

Another act deserving consideration is The 3.  A power trio hailing from the Oklahoma City metro area, The 3 (according to its press material) ‘records and performs an exciting mixture of modern classic hard rock, rockabilly (and) blues rock with the type of Christian themes found on the recordings of such artist as Johnny Cash, The Bryds, Hank Williams Sr. and others’.  The group, which consists of ‘three very seasoned pro musicians that posses substantial live and studio experience’ (vocalist and guitarist Dave Sharo, drummer Mark Hine and bassist Colin Steward), released its debut Into The Light on June 25, 2015 prior to following up with its sophomore effort Gospelbilly on March 31, 2017 (independent either way).

True to form, Gospelbilly - of the eye-catching 1940 Ford Deuce Coup cover art! - takes a foundation of blues-rock and imbues it with aspects of hard rock, classic rock and traditional blues.  The 3 compare favorably (in terms of style and quality) to its aforementioned contemporaries, not to mention ZZ Top, George Thorogood, Georgia Satellites and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Where The 3 digresses, however, is not necessarily in the area of quality but rather quantity in that Gospelbilly features eight songs and just 26 minutes of music, which places it within EP territory.  Perhaps the more well rounded release might have resulted if The 3 had included (at minimum) two to three additional songs or at the very least extended individual tracks beyond the albums average of three to three and a half minutes each (with the longest at four and shortest two and a half).

Opener “Shine” represents everything that works and does not on Gospelbilly.  In terms of the former, the song provides a good indicator of The 3 abilities, with catchy rhythms throughout, inviting upbeat tempo and guitars that touch upon classic hard rock.  From the latter standpoint, “Shine” finds the group restrained in terms of its instrumental sound, with the instrumental break at the halfway point ending before it has a change to build, while the passage at the end fades out to a few brief seconds of lead guitar.  Upshot is a song at three and a half minutes that while good might have been better if extended by an additional minute.

Second track “Sinner Train” represents The 3’s full potential.  The song separates itself from how Dave Sharo decorates its length with his delectable bluesy slide guitar, which plays up the mirthful and inviting (as it pertains to the festive backdrop) but also lends to the copious melody at hand (this one would fit quite well on classic rock radio).  Equally notable are how Sharo’s soulful middle register vocals walk a fine line between those of Glenn Kaiser and Chris Dickens (Big Chris & D’Bare Bone Band).

“Don’t You Go” is this reviewer’s choice track.  The song takes a straight on hard rock position, with fully loaded guitars cemented to the front of the mix in allowing a complementary darker aspect but also tempering to the smooth vocal melodies that adorn its stark refrain.  Sharo nails a stretch of rousing lead guitar certain to turn the head of Glenn Kaiser.  As a matter of fact, place “Don’t You Go” on any mid-period Resurrection Band album and it would sound right at home.

Lone track not to do anything for me is “Every Time You Rock”, which attributes more to its rockabilly musical direction (not my cup of tea) as opposed to musical prowess.  The song actually comes across quirkily infectious - in a positive sense - but ultimately proves repetitive (at least to these ears) from how it continuously repeats the question, “Do you pray every time you rock?’ again and again and again (wash, rinse, repeat). 

“Forgiven” is another top of the line heavy hitter.  Driven front to back by a shuffling bass presence (courtesy of Colin Stewart), the song touches upon an upbeat blues driven groove that has ZZ Top written all over it.  Consider how verses rollick in combative fashion, and refrain exuberantly exclaims, ‘Oh, my soul! Oh, my soul! Forgiven!’  Topping things off is another stretch of torrid soloing.   

Another undisguised blues rocker, “Gave My Soul” gracefully drifts its length to resolute slide guitar, reveling in up-tempo hooks as Sharo exults with his gritty voice, ‘I gave my soul, I gave my soul, I gave my soul to the Lord above.  He’s gonna rock me, He’s gonna roll me.  He’s gonna raise the dead!’  All the while Mark Hine provides the staunch backbone with his heavy-footed timekeeping.  Lone complaint is that “Gave My Soul” fades out a bit early at three minutes. 

Same applies to instrumental “Have Mercy”, which at two and a half minutes feel more like an ‘interlude’ piece that normally opens (or closes) an album or serves to bridge the gap between individual songs.  Musically, it is above the line in featuring catchy riffs and alluring harmonies galore as The 3 execute it with overriding feel and emotion.  That said, quality is such that you cannot help but wish it had been extended by another minute to a minute and a half.

Cannot offer a similar complaint regarding “Solitude” as albums longest cut at just below four minutes.  It also is the slowest and most reserved, as delicate rhythm guitars and light acoustic facets decorate it in helping lend a slight ballad feel.  Melody is lush and heartfelt as is the smoothly flowing momentum.  The songs laid back feel makes you wish the band had closed it to a saxophone solo along similar lines as Resurrection Band classic “The Return” (off Awaiting Your Reply).

I do not know whether the groups name is in reference to the Trinity, the three nails in Christ’s cross or the fact it is a power trio (or all the above), but what cannot be questioned is the manner in which The 3 makes its faith known in its prose.  Unfortunately, I do not have a lyric sheet in that the CD packaging consists of a ‘slip case’ without liner notes, while the band does not make lyrics available at its website.  It does deserve note, however, that the eye-catching cover art rates with the best I have seen this year.

I remain on the fence with Gospelbilly.  When at the top of its game, The 3 rank alongside its blues-rock contemporaries, particularly in light of choice tracks, “Sinner Train”, “Don’t You Go”, “Solitude”, “Gave Me Soul” and “Forgiven”.  That said, and I hate to harp on the matter, but I wish the group had recorded two to three addietional songs to extend the album into better rounded 35 to 40 minute territory (if a lack of material is an issue there is a ton of Resurrection Band cuts - how about “The Crossing”? - that would make choice candidates to cover).

With less than 30 minutes of music and one skip button, I cannot grade Gospelbilly higher than 70%, keeping in mind the group’s better material falls within (at the very least) 80% territory- so the issue (again) does not necessarily pertain to quality but rather quantity.  The group’s strong performance and solid production values manifest this further.  In the end, if into blues-rock or any type of blues based hard rock then I still encourage you to give The 3 and its sophomore album Gospelbilly the chance it deserves.

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Shine” (3:23), “Sinner Train” (3:51), “Don’t You Go” (3:20), “Every Time You Rock” (3:12), “Forgiven” (3:17), “Gave My Soul” (3:14), “Have Mercy” (2:22), “Solitude” (3:56)

Dave Sharo - Lead Vocals & Guitars
Colin Stewart - Bass
Mark Hine - Drums


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