One of my all-time favorite compliments came to me secondhand. A potential employer had asked a colleague to describe me. His answer: “Unflappable.”

I am notoriously levelheaded, sometimes to the point of frustration for people close to me (shout out to my exes!). It’s a blessing and a curse. I easily maintain my composure in what others would consider exasperating situations, but this poise can be misinterpreted as disinterest or dispassion. Let there be no confusion in this case.         I’m aflame. I’m agog. I’m athirst. All for a band called RIVAL SONS.

Me: “Can I be an annoying fan and ask for a photo?” Jay Buchanan of Rival Sons: “No, but you can be a beautiful woman and ask me.” Oh, Jay, you sly devil, you. As if I needed a reason to love you more.

I’ve been following Rival Sons for a few years now. Their brand of psychedelic-blues-rock has been on heavy rotation, and I’ve recommended them to a handful of friends who have similar musical leanings. It wasn’t until I saw them live at the Pressroom in Phoenix this past weekend that I became officially obsessed. Few bands sound appreciably better in concert than they do on their albums—Rival Sons kill live.

A real-deal rock n’ roll show should ooze two things above all else: danger and sex appeal. A natural performer, singer Jay Buchanan pulls off this combination with ease. He appears 100% in the moment, comfortable on stage and in his own skin without coming off as a vainglorious “rock star.” Without a doubt, Jay gets my vote for best voice in rock right now, and he has what it takes to be considered among the greats. Jay’s vocals bounce between sky-soaring and quietly contemplative. He makes his self-imposed lung abuse look like a spiritual practice, which is beautiful to watch and hear.

Guitarist Scott Holiday can shred with the best of them, but he doesn’t overcomplicate things. His approach is largely concise and straightforward, as if performed with a mentality of economy. Unlike a lot of players, his guitar work doesn’t feel self-indulgent or overly calculated. His is a riff-driven, visceral style that doesn’t hesitate. It’s pure, unfettered bluesy, fuzzy magic.

I love all of their stuff, but the latest release, Great Western Valkyrie, is my pick for album of the year, hell, maybe even the last 5 years. This band doesn’t rely on studio trickery—they don’t play to a click track and songs are often recorded in a single take. The vibe is raw and off-the-cuff, just like an essential rock n’ roll record should be. An accurate description: “This record is the filthy magazine hidden in the hymnal.”

My tendency toward understatement should, I hope, add some weight to this enthusiastic endorsement. Let Rival Sons take you to back to the church of rock n’ roll. Thanks to them, my faith has been restored. 

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