Guitarists with “chops” working with pop stars is not a new thing. Nuno Bettencourt/Rihanna and Nita Strauss/Demi Lovato are two recent examples. Justin Derrico, a regular with Pink for some time is an incredible player (seek out him and Ms. Moore on their version of Zeppelin’s ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’), and further back; Slash with Michael Jackson, and even further back; Eddie Van Halen with again, Michael Jackson. Maybe having a renowned guitar slinger alongside them, playing live, brings a feeling of authenticity? The latest mainstream superstar to team up with a rock/metal guitarist is Machine Gun Kelly who calls on London-based BIMM graduate Sophie Lloyd to take care of the live guitar duties.
Having made her name on YouTube (1m subscribers) and Instagram (947,000 followers), Lloyd is known for her “SHRED VERSIONS” of well-known classics such as ‘Enter Sandman’ ‘Sultans of Swing’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’, and now, she has released her debut solo album – ‘Imposter Syndrome’. In a similar vein to Slash’s 2010 self-titled solo debut, ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is (save one track, ‘Lost’) an instrumental-free zone that sticks with the collaborative approach that made ‘Slash’ so memorable (Lemmy, Ozzy, Iggy, Myles Kennedy, Fergie from The Black Eyed Peas…Adam Levine from Maroon 5, etc), and in all honesty, it’s just as much fun as the album from Stoke’s most famous export.
As Slash did 13 years ago, Lloyd gives the floor over to her guest vocalists and is content building her solos around the songs, rather than the other way around. The songs are the stars of the show. When called upon, she unleashes her considerable six-string talents with short but precise guitar wizardry that won’t alienate those who balk at the thought of a solo album from a guitarist. At times her playing is wonderfully restrained and thoughtful, and when she does let loose, as she does on the aforementioned ‘Lost’ – which also features another YouTube creator (Cole Rolland) – and on the scream-from-a-mountain-top-with-arms-wide-open ‘Fall of Man’ alongside Trivium’s inimitable Matthew K. Heafy, she still resists the urge to overplay that can blight so many guitarists solo albums these days.
Song-wise, there are some beauties on ‘Imposter Syndrome’; ‘Do Or Die’, featuring Nathan James from Inglorious – who sounds colossal on this one, is a great album opener and leaves the listener hoping for a full-length album between the pair, and the beating heart of the album is the incredible (and considering the subject matter, quite poignant) title track. Featuring Lzzy Hale, who recently shared her experience with anxiety and impostor syndrome, it is a goosebump-inducing few minutes that bring some stunning melodic hooks, and a gorgeous singing-guitar solo from Sophie that proves despite what Yngwie Malmsteen says, less really is more. However, somewhat surprisingly, title track aside, the two tracks that stick out the most feature perhaps the least-known vocalists featured on the album.
The first of the two is ‘Hanging On’ which features the considerable vocal talents of Toronto-based Lauren Babic (vocalist of Red Handed Denial, and CrazyEightyEight) and is an out-and-out slow burning old-school rocker that features some killer vocals (loving the harsh screams towards the end), deft guitar work, and a stellar drum sound from Chris Painter, who to be honest, does not put a foot wrong the entire album. The second is the ass-stomping ‘Won’t You Come’ which has Sophie team up with Marisa Rodriguez of UK rising stars Marissa and The Moths. Again, Painter knocks it out of the park, but it’s Marissa’s incredibly versatile vocal performance that steals the show. Both Babic and Rodriguez more than hold their own among established vocalists like Chris Robertson (Black Stone Cherry), Tyler Connolly (Theory of a Dead Man), and Michael Starr (Steel Panther) and make further investigation mandatory.
Genuinely, a lovely surprise of an album and one that proves that perhaps the blinkers need to come off when dealing with an artist who rose through the ranks through a different route than normal.
‘Imposter Syndrome’ is available now via Sophie’s own Autumn Records label.
Review – Dave