Reviews of the new album, The Tree...

The Riotous Brothers, The Tree - Flyinshoes Review 18/8/2014

The press release accompanying The Riotous Brothers' third album claims that they are "growing exciting new shoots from the roots of the blues", which is not a bad summation of the ten sparkling Sonnet/Long originals comprising The Tree. 

There's something here for those who demand that their blues is packed into eight or twelve neat bars, including the chugging good-time boogie of 'Honey Not Vinegar' and the snaking funk of 'Second Time Around'.

Mid-album, the atmospheric slow-burning passion of 'Fever' showcases all the best individual features of The Riotous Brothers, where, on top of Paul Long's Hammond wash and taut, precise Lake/Maggs rhythm accompaniment, a beautifully-judged and subtle guitar solo adds a delicious piquancy. 

It's always a delight when the artificial and unnecessary dividing line between blues and soul is ignored, and here 'Cigarettes' is an exemplar of the art, Gaynor Ingram's vocal backing adding a gospel sheen. 'Memory Of Our Love' too, displays the Brothers' soulful side, its arrangement a series of well-constructed and subtly-mixed piano-guitar counterpoints. 

The Tree feels like a true labour of love for those involved, whether in writing, performance or production and is wholly worthy of your attention.

David James Innes, Flyinshoes

Blues Matters, Aug-Sept 2014


Album review : THE RIOTOUS BROTHERS – The Tree

‘The Tree’ is the Riotous Brothers third album and it’s a notable step forward for the Mash Sonnet/Paul Long songwriting partnership. The duo contributes 7 co-writes and 3 solo efforts that combine good melodies with thoughtful lyrics and live in the studio interplay.

‘The Tree’ is a lyric driven album on which they thoughtfully add a meaningful song line under each title, giving us pause to think about the concept of the album title. It’s a blues based album full of musical diversity and coherent sequencing which could only be bettered by tighter arrangements and a polished production.

Inevitably, Mash Sonnet’s expressive vocals lie at the heart of the songs, as he moves from shared vocals to being a front line blues singer, an animated rocker and ultimately an intimate confidante on the closing ‘I Wanna Know’.

The album opens with ‘Now More Than Ever’, a catchy slice of Americana with strong bv’s, which is reminiscent of Brinsley Schwarz. It’s one of the best songs on the album and Mash Sonnet’s chiming guitar sounds like the late John Cipollina. The loose feel of the track is compounded by some studio chatter at the conclusion of a song that benefits from a pregnant pause and coda. The stop-time ‘Honey Not Vinegar’ is in the same vein, but has a Keith Richard style opening, a good hook, decent harmonies and a funky electric piano solo.

‘Me And You’ opens with a great line: ‘Can’t play it like a Ray Charles, can’t howl like a Wolf, my fingers want to fly like a Joe, I got to find my own truth’. A big melodic sweep carries the song to the conclusion that: ‘I got to sing my own blues’. And they do just that, with the help of a lyrical harp solo from Paul Jones, on one of the best produced tracks on the album.

Not everything works quite as well though. ‘Second Time Around’ for example, aspires to being a cool groove with suitable delicate guitar touches and cool organ. It percolates nicely, rooted by some deep bass notes and wah-wah colouring, but fails too overcome some workman phrasing that fails to make an essential connection with the lyrical meaning.

In sharp contrast to the above, Mash adds a more angst ridden approach on the slow blues ‘Fever’, a tale of: ‘a man loving woman’. His spiky guitar solo is a natural extension of his vocal, as he racks up the tension in the break-down, before his vocal and piercing notes coalesce on the resolution.  It’s a track that grows on you, much like the album as a whole.

‘Something’s Got To Change’ is both outstanding and arguably the best produced effort on the album. Paul Long employs a warm, close to the mic vocal on an atmospheric track full of shimmering notes, keyboard fills and subtle harmonies.

The melodic ‘Cigarettes’ comes from the same template as the opening track and is equally good, albeit with a darker narrative, a great hook and a gospel resolution that gives the album a notable lift. The following blues ballad ‘Memory Of Our Love’ almost does the opposite. Despite Mat Lake’s nuanced bass notes, the lyrics fail to convey intended emotion on a track that tries too hard to be tasteful.

But The Riotous Brothers are nothing if not adventurous and Dirk Maggs’s opening drum pattern on ‘Proving Too Hard’ gives way to an ambitious proggy arrangement full of sharp dynamics, a booming vocal and a sparkling jammed out mid-section. You can imagine this being a worthy climax to their live set, but not the album, which is nicely rounded off by ‘I Wanna Know’. Mash eclipses everything that he’s sung before with a piece of gut wrenching emotion.

‘The Tree’ showcases a promising songwriting partnership in the making and a confident band who revel in smoky grooves and sparkling solos. Their music is rooted in the blues, but never constricted by it and as a result ‘The Tree’ branches out to a potentially wider audience. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

The Riotous Brothers, The Tree - album review

There is nothing I love better than receiving an album comprised of all original songs; this is the case here with The Riotous Brothers and their third album ‘The Tree’.

Mash Sonnet (guitar & vocals) and Paul Long (keyboards & vocals) have written some wonderful songs going through the breadth and styles of the modern blues with a few added twists of their own, with an air of confidence, musicianship and production.

Ten tracks on show here with Matt Lake on bass and Dirk Maggs on drums providing the back line groove as they open up with a couple of rocking tunes, ‘Now More Than Ever’, watch out for the false ending on this one, and ‘Honey Not Vinegar’ featuring some lovely keyboards from Paul.

They can also turn down the heat too to give you a chance to relax, the broody ‘Something’s Got To Change’ and the piano led ‘Memory Of Our Love’ featuring a nice Peter Green style guitar break show their writing versatility as well as the album closer ‘I Wanna Know’ with some great guitar from Mash.

For me the brothers show their collective class on three particular tracks, all of differing tempos and feeling. The slow-paced ‘Me And You’ has a sweet blend of guitar and keys but topped with some killer harmonica from album guest Paul Jones. The next two are probably my favourite two tracks, ‘Second Time Around’ has a beautiful soulful groove about it with all the instruments mixed beautifully to create a wonderful vibe. ‘Fever’ is just a great modern day blues song about love’s anguish featuring some great guitar underpinned by some glorious keys and backline, these tracks to me some up the bands skill in writing great songs.

The rest of the album is again quite diverse, the very commercial sounding ‘Cigarettes’ and the Procol Harum 60’s sounding epic ‘Proving Too Hard’ give a full flavour of the influences that create the music on here.

Good music, good production and good song writing make this a really good album that any fan of modern day blues rock should enjoy, I know I did.

Roger Allen 15/4/14

Marsh Towers Blog Album Review

A burst of guitar, a crash of the drums and The Riotous Brothers hit the ground running on Now More Than Ever, the pacy opener of their third album.

Featuring 10 original songs - with the writing duties shared by Mash Sonnet and Paul Long - The Tree embraces several offshoots from the solid trunk of the blues genre.

The first two songs sit firmly on the blues rock branch of the tree. The direction then shifts to the slower blues of Me And You, which is one of of the album's highlights. It's already doing well when special guest Paul Jones pitches in with a virtuoso performance on the harmonica, which takes it to another level altogether.

Other highlights include the smouldering Fever, the melancholy, moving Something's Got To Change and the excellent Proving Too Hard, all six minutes and 10 seconds of it, which allows the musicianship plenty of time and space to really rock it out and shine.

With catchy guitar riffs well to the fore on each and every song, The Tree is a triumph that gets stronger with each listening.

Sean Marsh 27/3/2014

The Riotous Brothers: The Tree. Album Review

Blues In Britain, April 2014

The Riotous Brothers are starting to make their mark on the British Blues Scene. This, their third album is an original set of songs from Mash Sonnet, Paul Long, Mat Lake and Dirk Maggs. Like the earlier CD, this one shows a growing breadth to their work, demonstrating song writing and performance skills in abundance.

The music ranges from the track Second Time Around,which persistently reminds me of The Crusaders at their best, while Something's Got To Change is inflected (IMHO) with the sounds of modern contemporary American country music. The bluesiest track, which starts with some fabulous guitar shredding, and comes with outstanding keys work, features Mr Paul Jones in a very nice harp solo and some nice ensemble work: Great lyrics too.

Memory Of Our Love has a kind of gospel sound and feel and comes with some beautifully controlled and (yes) melodic bass playing. Proving Too Hard has a gentle drum driven start and suddenly becomes Bachman-Turner Overdrive with Mick Fleetwood on drums: I Love it! There is also some rather eerie 'Greeny' type axe stuff on that track too. The closer I Wanna Know is a bluesy, minor key, rather folky sounding piece, with some nice reverbed guitar and even a touch of slide. Strangely, IMHO, it is also the weakest song on the album which might have been better buried in the middle of the track sequence.

Nevertheless, all in all, a convincing outing for the band and this album will enhance their reputation no end.

Ian McKenzie

The Riotous Brothers, The Tree. Album Review.

The Blues Magazine, Issue 12. Rating 8/10

It's always a relief when you enter a shred-free zone, and the new studio album by The Riotous Brothers definitely qualifies as blues music for grown-ups. Featuring the double threat of Mash Sonnet (guitars) and Paul Long (keyboards), The Tree branches out in all manner of directions, with subtle nods to everyone from The Who to Robert Cray.

The stand-out track, Fever, sees Sonnet deliver an electrifying performance, which proves it is possible to be a great guitar player without constantly going over the top. And Long's keyboard skills speak for themselves, particularly on Second Time Around and the gospel-flavoured Cigarettes.

The interplay between the two men on the epic Proving Too Hard may have some readers getting misty-eyed about the long-forgotten nights of their youth. If you thought they don't make records like that anymore, think again. They do.

Jamie Hailstone

The Riotous Brothers, The Tree. Album Review.

Published on February 26, 2014

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9½ /10

The third album by The Riotous Brothers, The Tree, starts like a feeling of pure exhilaration and ends up with you wanting to weep for all the right reasons and take each song to your heart. If an album can really take you to places that you cannot go to in your physical life then this is the same sensation you might get when you read Wuthering Heights, Far from The Madding Crowd, Moby Dick or Edward Rutherford’s Sarum for the first time in the quiet slumber of deep forest surrounded by the dying embers of a perfect summer’s day.

This new original set of songs from Mash Sonnet, Paul Long, Matt Lake and Dirk Maggs is illuminating, it asks gently for attention and gets it in droves, there is no need to shout, holler, exclaim wildly that it is a good record. It knows; it fully understands how the listener is going to feel once the music stops and will be there to greet them with the largest hug possible. The Tree that sits in the middle of the deep forest, the Blues family ever growing, ever tantalising, has found a branch so lush, so brimming with delicate bounty that it might just knock anything that the great Joe Bonamassa or Joanne Shaw Taylor can bring along to the Blues Jungle this year.

This though is not a branch that is out of reach, it is obtainable, easy to understand and fruitful. The Tree may well blossoming, it may well be growing exponentially but this particular limb is one that will keep growing for many years. Tracks such as the gorgeous Second Time Around, the excellent Something’s Got To Change and the utterly absorbing Cigarettes are songs of distinction, true treasures in which to immerse yourselves into and wallow for a while. Let the evening dusk give way to night and the creatures of the darkness have their time, you won’t notice them but come morning, when the dew settles around you, you will see another leaf on the branch, it will be your admiration for an album of absolute stunning beauty and breath taking originality.

Ian D. Hall

The Riotous Brothers: The Tree

Album Review, R2 Magazine, March 2014. Rating 3/5

The third album from UK blues four-piece The Riotous Brothers goes a long way to explaining their growing reputation and the inclusion of Paul Jones, on harmonica, on 'Me And You'.

While many at the younger end of the contemporary blues-rock scene seem too concerned with volume and endless riffing, The Riotous Brothers offer a hard-edged sound by substituting volume with presence and power, and by blending 60s-style r'n'b with a soul influence, courtesy of keyboard player Paul Long. At times The Tree is reminiscent of the solo work of Mod-meister Paul Weller circa Stanley Road. most especially on the untamed blow-out Proving Too Hard and the slow-burning Me And You.

It's not all plain sailing though. The clunky Second Time Around doesn't succeed, and occasionally frontman Mash Sonnet's vocals fail to reach the required peaks. Thankfully the pros outnumber the cons, with the rootsy, acoustic guitar-led Cigarettes being a particular highpoint amongst a most agreeable and recommended selection that demonstrates The Riotous Brothers' versatility.

Steve Caseman

The Riotous Brothers – The Tree

(Self-produced: RB003) Blues In The NorthWest

The Riotous Brothers are Mash Sonnet (guitar and vocals), Paul Long (keyboards, guitar and vocals), Mat Lake (bass) and Dirk Maggs (drums). They are supplemented on three tracks by Gaynor Ingram on backing vocals. The album contains ten original numbers, all written by Sonnet and Long.

The album opens with the upbeat rocker, “Now More Than Ever”, which offers a distinct taste of Brown Sugar. The lively mood is continued with some medium-paced RnB in the form of “Honey Not Vinegar” before the pace is eased by the slow and bluesy “Me And You”, complete with a cracking harmonica solo from Paul Jones – a fitting gesture in return for Paul Long’s sterling service as producer of the harpmeister’s BBC Radio 2 programme.

The slower tempo is maintained by the next two tracks, the swampy “Second Time Around”, enhanced by a fine guitar solo from bass player Mat Lake, and the slow blues, “Fever”, with Mash Sonnet’s vocals exhibiting a pleasing similarity to those of the impeccable Harry Skinner. Three ballads then ensue: the dreamy “Something’s Got To Change”, the bleak and remorseful “Cigarettes” and the sad and bluesy “Memory Of Our Love”.

After a deceptively laid-back introduction, Proving Too Hard” develops into a gritty, slow rocker with some impressive guitar and keyboard interplay over an insistently effective foundation from the rhythm section. Calmness is finally restored by the gentle ballad, “I Wanna Know”

This is a pleasant compilation, boasting a number of skilfully-crafted, well-performed original compositions. However, while the pun-based, tongue-in-cheek derivation of the band’s name is understood, the sedate ambience of the album renders it completely inappropriate.

Lionel Ross

Here are some reviews we've had for the album 'SHOUT IT OUT".

Live show reviews here below

Shout it Out: Reviewed in the November 2011 Blues In Britain:

'Is this a blues band or what?' A good question and one that you could answer simply as no. The Riotous Brothers go beyond being just another blues cover band doing the circuit and their second album, 'Shout It Out', lets you sample the writing skills of both Mash Sonnet (guitar, harmonica & vocals) and Paul Long (keyboards, guitar & vocals): two distinct styles that blend together so well.

There are no covers on this album and the original songs take a few plays to start sinking in and when they do, they stay with you. From the first track, the catchy up-tempo 'Don't Stop Me Now', you know this is an album of quality. "Not Guilty' has some great sax from Robbie Richardson and 'Call My Baby' features award-winning harmonica player Paul Jones. The real treat on this album is the title track 'Shout It Out' which gives all four members of the band a chance to shine; from all-out power chords, to jazzy keys and funky bass lines - this is a gem. Tucked away near the end of the album is another great track 'Have My Fill' with some superb bass lines and cool harmonica in-fills; nice!

Finally, the last track of the album deserves a mention, if only for the great slide guitar and keyboard; 'Birds Of Peace' is a track to play again and again.

Having seen the band play live at the album launch party, I can truthfully say that the studio recording reflects the raw energy and fun that is seamlessly delivered when the band is playing live. There is great use of light and shade on this album; go and explore!

Rating 9/10 Martin Clarke, Blues In Britain November 2011 ©

SHOUT IT OUT Review Issue 61, Blues Matters! August 2011

Entertainment is the key word here; fourteen original tracks on this album all bristle with blues energy, be it the RnB style or the more laid back soulful blues that allows the listener to take a breather. In fact on 'A Long Long Way To Texas' there is even a string quartet, but I assure this is the exception to the rule here, the majority of the tracks are high energy material.

Over the past couple of years the band have done a lot of leg work appearing at gigs and festivals up and down the country; this is now paying dividends on the evidenceof this album, which is a very strong album that mixes various blues styles from the past five decades, paying homage at times to the great British Blues Boom period of the middle 1960s. So memorable were some of the songs that I had to do a double take, as I was convinced they were covers, but I can confirm that all the material on the album is self written by band members.

As a four piece band ssecond guitarist Paul Long additionally covers on keyboards, which allows them to fill out their sound to fill its full potential; besides the aforementioned string quartet there are some guest players, including Paul Jones on harmonica, who add some additional quality touches to the proceedings.

This is a faultless recording that has something for every type of blues fan to enjoy, all fourteen tracks stand up individually and if the musicianship and song writing contiunue in this vain the band are destined to cause a riot!

Adrian Blacklee, Blues Matters! August 2011 ©

'SHOUT IT OUT' review: Get Ready To Rock

From the mock Atco cd label to their adventurous blues based music, The Riotous Brothers try to be all things to all people. ‘Shout It Out’ is a generous 14 track album that finds a workable equilibrium to accommodate the gravel voiced Mash Sonnet, the band’s principal song writer and guitarist and the more understated vocals of keyboard player song-writer and producer Paul Long. Mat Lake provides the subtle undulating bass work and the band’s natural exuberance is reined in and eloquently shaped up by economic drummer Dirk Maggs.

‘Shout It Out’ is a varied but coherent album and is the result of a confident band unafraid to explore the places their songs take them. It’s a studio album full of well crafted songs that breathe enough to allow the band to stretch out into unexpected territories. There’s the rockabilly opener ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, the muscular funk on ‘Restless’, the rock and roll bluster of ‘Call My Baby’, some unexpected pedal steel led country on ‘Sweet Honey Chicken’ and the good time boogie of ‘Have My Fill’. But it’s on the heartfelt ballads that The Riotous Brothers really excel as they bring real emotion and feel to bear on subtle playing.

What makes the whole album work so well is that the band play to their strengths and makes the most of their musical diversity. They have also penned a handful of excellent songs on a wide ranging album that bristles with musical tension and is fired by the unfettered spirit of musical adventure. Perhaps it’s that sense of unrestrained merriment that lends itself to the Riotous moniker?

Central to the band’s energetic drive is the splendidly named Mash Sonnet who when not passionately belting out his vocal parts adds a wide range of tone colours to his solos. He virtually launches himself into the stonking opener ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, and adds two explosive fire cracker guitar breaks on the title track. The following ‘Restless’ is one of several songs that start off as one thing and become diverted into something else, before returning to the original source. The tough riff driven rocker is fleetingly transformed by a coruscating wah wah guitar break and organ line into an unlikely dreamy Peter Green guitar sequence that cleverly evokes the title. ‘Knock Knock’ is also violently ruptured from its electric piano led groove, full of breathy diction and lascivious phrasing, by a double time break which pushes the dividing line between musical dexterity and feel, but still works well!

It’s all good stuff and a refreshing departure from the usual unimaginative blues rock fare. And even on the more straight ahead rockers like ‘Sweet Apparition’ there are well thought out keyboard fills, intricate percussive patterns (from CSN&Y percussionist Joe Lala) and incisive guitar to retain our interest.

Paul Long contributes 3 songs of which ‘Don’t Turn Around’ has real presence with an emotive vocal and cool dynamics that make the most of little pregnant pauses before an organ line levers in Mash’s slow burning solo. The soulful ‘Love is Dangerous’ shares a similar languid feel and features Paul’s best vocal performance as he briefly pushes himself into a falsetto range. It’s a subtle arrangement with up in the mix drums and an alternate use of organ and electric piano which gives the song its layered feel, before another Mash stop-time guitar break. There’s also a lovely sweep to the song as the guitar and organ intermesh and Paul emotes over ascending bvs.

And if Paul’s gentle bluesy refrains impress with their understated subtlety then Mash’s ‘A Long Long Way To Texas’ is the best track on the album. It’s rare for a blues based band to come up with something as original and different as this. The opening string quartet and Paul’s Eric Satie style piano line is the perfect foil for Mash’s retrained vocal which perfectly evokes the feeling of the song, before a plucked string and acoustic outro. Simply gorgeous. He’s nearly as impressive on the closing acoustic ‘Birds of Peace’ which provides a perfect finish with its lovely slide guitar lilt and flighty piano.

There’s a touch of irony involved in the inner sleeve photo which finds the band advertised at an unknown venue after 2 nights of karaoke. And ‘Shout It Out’ musically maps out the sharp contrast between quality music and the disposable. ‘Shout It Out’ is not quite a five star deal but is the impressive sum of its adventurous parts being full of creativity, integrity and real spark. Seek it out, you will be pleasantly surprised.**** (4/5)

Review by Pete Feenstra ©

Half Moon Putney gig 29/9/11 reviewed in Blues In Britain:

The front bar of what is a very nice Young's pub was being refurbished. The excellent music room could do with a makeover too. It was almost pitch black inside, when I stumbled in. Photographers complain of the lack of light to work by and my shoes stuck to the floor, so I had to dance on the spot. The yard is attractive, though full of smokers; I had to go inside for some fresh air during the break.

The Riotous Brothers is a quartet comprising Mash Sonnet on vocals, guitar and harmonica, Paul Long on vocals, keyboards and sometimes guitar, Mat Lake on Fender bass and Dirk Maggs on drums and backing vocals.

They have a repertoire stretching the limits of blues and R&B. Some songs are familiar such as 'Real Mother For Ya', 'Phone Booth', 'Lonely Avenue', 'High-Heeled Sneakers' and the like. Others from their own song book still have a familiar feel to them, as if they are the standards of tomorrow, although that may be because I have played their second album, 'Shout It Out', a fair few times.

Playing in bare feet, Mash had the lion's share of the vocals but Paul took a turn on half a dozen or so numbers , such as 'Big Boss Man', 'Messin' With The Kid' and originals such as 'Not Guilty' and 'Don't Turn Around'. Paul took the guitar parts, still seated at the keyboards, when Mash played harp and did stand-up comedy with Dirk as his stooge.

The music was good and the band had a great rapport with the enthusiastic audience. It was a fun evening!

Fran Leslie, Blues In Britain, November 2011 ©

The Riotous Brothers

Cellars at Eastney, Live: CD Launch. Reviewed in the May 2011 Blues In Britain:

The Cellars is packed with wall to wall anticipation of what is to come. The launch of the new album Shout It Out has brought both regulars and new fans and crammed them into this great little venue tucked away in Eastney near Portsmouth.

The Riotous Brothers consist of Mash Sonnet on guitar, harmonica, vocals, Paul Long on keyboards, guitar, vocals, Mat Lake on Bass and Dirk Maggs on drums. The band is tight and the sound slick as they launch into the first song of the night with “Don’t Stop Me Now” with Shola Efunshile on stage providing backing vocals.

The crowd erupt and it’s clear from this first song this is going to be a fun night. Two covers follow with “Come On Up” and “I’m Ready” before anther two from the new album with “Sweet Apparition” and “Be My Saviour”.

With a cover of “Big Boss Man”, it is then back to the album for “Knock Knock”, which has a great moody feel to it. “Fever” leads into more songs from the album finishing off the first set with “Love Is Dangerous” and “Have My Fill”.

The second set starts with a string of songs from the new album, “Long Way To Texas”, a departure from Mash Sonnet’s writing style with haunting piano from Paul Long, then “Call My Baby”, “Not Guilty”. “Sweet Honey Chicken”, “Don’t Turn Around” and “Restless”.

There is an incredible atmosphere in this small venue with people starting to dance as the band goes into top gear. “Honey Pot”, “Mashy’s Thang” and “Deja Voodoo” lead up to the final song of the night with the title song of the album “Shout It Out”.

The crowd’s insistence pays off and the appreciation is loud as the band come back on stage to play two encores. Once the applause dies away, the night is over and a very satisfied audience starts to disperse. A great night out with a band who would stand proud at any venue; a must go and see line up.

Martin Clarke, Blues In Britain May 2011 ©