Review: Sonny Jim – ‘Sign Of The Times’ EP

“I just don’t believe that anyone is going to get sick of drums, bass, guitar, and badass vocals. That’s the recipe for rock ‘n’ roll.” – Brent Smith, Shinedown.

Never were truer words spoken than those pearls of wisdom from the Floridian multi-platinum artist who often takes on the dual role of spokesman and performer during one of the gazillion live shows that Shinedown performs each year. And, let’s be honest here, who better to offer a statement on the health status of rock ‘n’ roll than someone who lives out of a suitcase? The sheer volume of “Death of rock ‘n’ roll” headlines over the last few years is down to only one thing: clickbait. Site editors know that as soon as they use those words in a headline the hits will follow and with them, that all-important increase in “reach”“Is Rock Dead?” is just behind “Extreme weather on the way” in the “How to get clicks without any effort” stakes. Back to Mr. Smith though, and as he says: “…that’s the recipe for rock ‘n’ roll.” and it’s this same recipe that Welsh rockers Sonny Jim are following on their hugely enjoyable new 3-track EP ‘Sign Of The Times’.

Adopting a ‘back to basics/less is more’ approach, the Welsh stalwarts of the grassroots music scene (releasing stellar output since 2012, so yeah, that makes them stalwarts) have conjured up another winner, and in doing so have yet again raised the question of how come this band are not more well known than they currently are? The last output from the band was the Manics-tinged 2022 single ‘Nothing Makes Any Sense Anymore’ and if that was aimed at the state of the world in 2022, then 2023 with its “Hold my beer” attitude has broken Sonny Jim and sees them saying fuck it, unleash the hounds. With the hounds, in this case, being the ‘DC boogie-filled riffage that explodes to life on the title track and EP opener. It’s raw, simplistic, and gets the job done. And when we are living in the era of people swiping on if they are not instantly hooked, ‘Sign Of The Times’ does just that and instantly hooks the listener. People gravitate to the familiar because brains are wired that way and the guitar work from Lloyd Jenkins – coupled with a gorgeous kick-drum thump from Robbie Brewster – is all about sparking a feeling of familiarity as the band builds to the arrival of vocalist Jay Donagh – Sonny Jim’s secret weapon. Never overreaching, Donagh makes it look easy. The result is a four-minute banger that sounds like it was cooked up right there and then on the spot, with all the players together in the same room. Sidebar – vote for ‘Sign Of The Times’ in Classic Rock’s ‘Tracks of The Week’ – here.

‘Head In My Hands’ begins in much the same fashion; a gorgeous guitar riff from Jenkins that stops you in your tracks and will have you reaching to turn the volume control skyward. Brewster is the key ingredient here and he plays with such a non-fussy approach that it’s a joy to listen to. Drummers drive the band forward, and with Brewster at the wheel, Sonny Jim are in good hands. Donagh’s vocals are almost narrative-like and during the “…with my head in my hands…” refrains, had his vocals been an octave or two higher then it might just be primetime Brian Molko, that same post-grunge feel. The snarl at 02:56 minutes though: pure rock ‘n’ roll.

If it’s not broken then why try and fix it, and closing track ‘Don’t Look Up’ follows the tried and trusted path of opening with a hooky guitar riff from Lloyd Jenkins, followed by more of that steady drum work from Robbie Brewster. With this one, Donagh’s vocals are at their grittiest. There’s something ‘Panama’-esque about the early parts of ‘Don’t Look Up’ – that same melody-filled drive, and to these ears at least, there are moments of what Diamond David Lee Roth might have sounded like had he gargled each morning with mouthwash laced with shards of broken windscreen. Throw in a Pete Townshend-like guitar tone as the track builds to a climax, and the end result is bloody brilliant. As is the EP. To be completely honest though, Sonny Jim doesn’t do duff tracks. They might make you wait a while between offerings, but it’s always worth the wait. Surely Sonny Jim are on the radar of the fine folks at Steelhouse Festival?

Get more information on ‘Sign Of The Times’ and Sonny Jim, here.

Review – Dave

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