It’s quite difficult for white middle class boys to cover black blues artists, though The Stones and The Yardbirds managed to make a career out of it. We Happy Few have managed to pull it off. Particularly on I’m Satisfied and Pay Day they remain faithful to Mississippi John Hurt’s originals. There’s also a decent shot at Robert Johnson’s Little Queen of Spades, no mean feat at all. I find it incredible that groups like this don’t have a record deal. Major labels should form subsidiary labels to get acts like this out there.
We Happy Few’s Empty Boxes is an enjoyable experience. It’s stripped back and clever in its simplicity like an unplugged album should be. There’s a cool, laid back sound that points to a confidence and adds an authentic British blues feel that goes back to Fairport Convention and the unassuming but very skilled acts you’d see at the Cambridge Folk Festival.
A slight criticism and it’s just a personal one, after a while the album becomes a little bit one dimensional and I was hoping the band would maybe find themselves a generator and plug in. I was hoping to hear a full drum kit and a Jimmy Page or Jeff Beck solo come in but that probably says more about me than the band, who are clearly sticking to their guns in keeping it acoustic.
The most noticeable aspect to Empty Boxes is the high level of musicianship. There’s some fine slide guitar and intricate finger picking going on as the band bring a modern, contemporary feel to the genre and the future seems bright for English Blues but for the next album let’s do a Dylan and go electric. Fine work.
Review by Charlie Brown