Sometimes the clue to what a song will sound like is in the title and with the word ‘blues’ sitting at the end of the title of ‘3 Force Blues’ you have a pretty good idea of what sort of song you’re dealing with. The Lurchers, fronted by that giant of SA music, James Phillips, brought a fuller and more polished sound to Phillips’ songs on their album ‘Sunny Skies’. His earlier stuff with Corporal Punishment, Illegal Gathering and The Cherry Faced Lurchers has a rough, unpolished sound that suited the rough unpolished times we were living in back then, but in 1994 when Phillips put together The Lurchers, which featured Willem Möller on guitar, Lee Edwards on bass, Lloyd Martino on drums and Paul Hamner on piano, the sound seemed to get that little bit more sophisticated.
There is no more of the wild youth inexperience and learning going into the music, here is a man and a band who had matured and knew what they were doing. And ‘3 Force Blues’ would, I am sure, have had some influence on the bright eyed youngsters who were about to launch the blues explosion that happened in Stellenbosh in the late 90’s early 00’s.
Edwards’ bass and Möller’s guitar prowl around the song together, as if eyeing out this gravelling voiced singer, stalking him, watching his every move so that they can adapt and change as they need to and they do this expertly. While Phillips is aware of those around him, but one can almost see the twinkle in his eye as he tries to weave and bob, challenging them to keep up. It’s a kind of sparring match, tight and tense to those watching closely, but on the face of it, relaxed and confident.
As we moved on from apartheid, Phillips looks forward to the Sunny Skies that he hoped for, but there was still a lot going on to be concerned and angry about. Sadly, about a year after its release, James would die in that carsh crash so he never really got to experience the new South Africa. But his music lives on and will continue to stand as a reminder of where we came from. Based on the Beaufort Scale, a Force 3 wind is a gentle breeze and often after a Force 11 (violent storm) the wind then subsides to Force 3 as nature gets back to normal. ‘3 Force Blues’ is a bit like the Force 3 breeze after the storm. It’s not becalming, there is still movement and disruption which one can enjoy. You can also check out the Robin Auld acoustic cover which, with his gravelly vocals, is just as compelling as the original.
Where to find it:
The Lurchers – Sunny Skies (1994), Shifty Records