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SoCal’s Rival Sons Craft Rollicking, Bluesy Music

In Music
Old & New: SoCal rockers Rivals Sons craft rollicking, 
bluesy stomp by channeling Zeppelin, Jack White.

Old & New: SoCal rockers Rivals Sons craft rollicking, bluesy stomp by channeling Zeppelin, Jack White.

It’s early afternoon and Rival Sons guitarist Scott Holiday is calling from a hotel room in Winnipeg—or “Winterpeg” as locals call it. “It’s even too cold for Canadians here,” the lifelong Southern Californian jokes. It’s amazing what sun worshippers will put up with if it means their band gets to support Black Sabbath, as the Sons will tonight at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre. “These are Black Sabbath’s shows,” he humbly adds—“we’re just blessed to be here.”

The blues-inspired rock & roll of Rival Sons has drawn comparisons to Cream, Led Zeppelin and The Animals, but there’s a Muscle Shoals country soul thing going on as well. “We just want to sound like us,” Holiday explains. “We don’t want to bullshit the listener.”

When not coaxing you with a quivering whisper-sing, vocalist Jay Buchanan declaims like a Pentecostal preacher. The booming 2/4 stomp of drummer Mike Miley and walking bass lines of Dave Beste evoke Zeppelin’s rhythm section. Holiday knows his way around the guitar (check the epic soloing on “Manifest Destiny, Part 1” from 2012’s Head Down) but bristles at the idea of anything technical in his playing. British bluesmen, including Jeff Beck are influences, but so are modern avatars such as Jack White. “He plays with a lot of fervor and personality,” Holiday says of the ex-White Stripe. “I’ll take that over the dude fresh out of school who can burn through every mode and scale.”

Rival Sons’ latest offering, the Tour Edition of 2014’s Great Western Valkyrie (live versions, B sides, and acoustic performances in Norway with Holiday playing dobro) contains a cover of “Black Coffee” by Humble Pie. “I’m a huge Steve Marriott fan starting with Small Faces. If you watch reruns from (British TV show) The Old Grey Whistle Test, they did a version of ‘Black Coffee’ with The Blackberries on backup. That was inspired, and it’s always stayed with me.”

Supporting rock royalty is nothing new for the Sons, who just finished a European trek with Deep Purple and have toured with AC/DC, Aerosmith, and Guns & Roses. They got a standing ovation in Omaha on the opening night of the Sabbath tour, but it’s hardly gone to their heads.

“No matter how ‘normal’ it becomes there’s still the quiet moment on every tour when we’re like, ‘These are the people in the music magazines I read as a kid. This is where all the licks I learned started. Oh my God!’

Rival Sons
Feb 9, 7:30pm, $105
SAP Center, San Jose

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