You'd be hard-pushed to find a better harmonica player than Karl Steven in our fair country - not only does he have the technical chops, but also a melodicism that's as expressive as any vocalist, and a soulful groove that could have come straight out of the southern States.

His reputation for creating whip-smart, energetic tracks (in both Supergroove and the Drab Doo Riffs) is well known, and when Steven combines his harmonica and stompbox with the intoxicating, smokey vocals of Caoimhe Macfehin (also in the DDR), and the jangling, bluesy, pulsing guitar strumming of Kristal G, the result is a heady, spinning album experience, that ranges from cheeky and carefree to grindingly heartbroken. It's a simple combination, but it's all they need to run the gamut of human emotion.

Finger-snapping hoe-downs Spit It Out and Don't Waste My Time will surely be party tracks, while Too Hot Blues captures a careless sunny day hangover/walk of shame perfectly.

Troubles is one of the most unsentimental torch songs you're likely to hear, and Living In Hell so evocatively self-pitying it feels like you've walked into a saloon to find three sorry-looking gunmen drowing their sorrows; but as Steven's harmonica grows more scorching and Macfehin's voice grows heavier, the sadness becomes all the more sincere.


* This review was incorrectly published with 3.5 stars in the TimeOut section today, it should have been given 4.5 stars, our apologies.
Stars: 4.5/5
Verdict: Simple yet scorching.

Click here to buy a copy of Heart Attack Alley's new album, Living In Hell.