British Blues/Rock pioneer Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown celebrate 50 continuous years of touring, more than 5,000 gigs from the Royal Albert Hall to Carnegie Hall to the Fillmore East and West and now back at The Iridium!
Kim Simmonds is not living in the past; he’s challenging himself and his band to reach new heights and find higher ground.
“Savoy Brown is a very musical band,” Simmonds says. “We’re not comparing ourselves to others. We appeal to an audience who wants to hear what we are up to now, what we are rehearsing, creating as a band. I think my guys and my team is empowering me to do this.”
That’s what Kim lives for and invigorates him – playing for audiences who are hungry to listen for new heights in artistry – not just living off 50 years as an architect of the British hard blues scene.
“Whether I like it or not, I think my destiny is to keep doing what I’m doing, play in clubs and theaters where people pay their hard eared money to hear us give them one-hundred and ten percent.”
Last Spring, the band released The Devil To Pay, Simmonds’ 46th album, and it shows what 50 years giving one-hundred and ten percent can do.
“In many ways,” considers the iconic bandleader, “This is the best album I’ve ever done. It’s fresh and new, and belongs to the twenty-first century.”
The Devil To Pay was born during a white-knuckle burst of inspiration. “We recorded the album in April 2015 at SubCat Studios in Syracuse, New York,” reflects Kim. “I record very fast, within two or three days, and most of the work is done in a single day. All the work is done in the months before going into the studio. The songwriting, getting the focus right, the rehearsals, the practice, playing the material live. Once all that is done, it’s a simple matter of going into the studio and catching the moment. Exactly like I did, for instance, with Street Corner Talking back in 1971.”
The Devil To Pay represents years of wood shedding in Kim’s White Cottage Studio, usually at o’dark thirty in the morning. Between tours, Simmonds is constantly honing his craft, playing guitar, singing, writing songs, recording.
“Blues songs are mostly about your feelings,” explains Kim. “Love, loneliness, happiness, despair and so forth. All these emotions are somewhere in the songs on the new album. The song “The Devil To Pay” is about having to pay for doing wrong in the past. “Bad Weather Brewing” is about the feeling that something bad is going to happen in your life. Grew Up In The Blues about someone not having it easy when they were young.”
With songs that strong, The Devil To Pay is set to continue the upward march of Savoy Brown’s acclaimed recent releases, 2011’s Voodoo Moon and 2014’s Goin’ To The Delta. “I’d like people to say it’s better than the last studio album,” says Kim. “I’m pleased with it. There’s always things you would do different, but that’s just the way creating something goes. I think it’s an album that continues to connect the circle from the band’s beginnings to now.”
Anyone with an appreciation of blues-rock will have been following that circle intently since the start. Rewind to when the Savoy Brown Blues Band formed in 1965, and began playing gigs as they held residence at the Nag’s Head, which became a scene for Fleetwood Mac and many others because of Savoy Brown’s beginning there. “We practiced seven days a week there; we were extremely driven.”
Kim was a lynchpin of perhaps the most exciting scene in history, establishing Savoy Brown in the first wave of British blues-boomers, signing to Decca, opening for Cream’s first London show and being namedropped in the same breath as peers like Clapton and Hendrix (with whom he jammed). Even then, the guitarist was emerging as the band’s driving force. “I had a vision,” he reflects. “When I started the band back in 1965, the concept was to be a British version of a Chicago blues band. And the exciting thing now is, that vision is still alive. ”
Soon, Savoy Brown had achieved what most British bands never did – success in America – and became a major Stateside draw thanks to their high-energy material and tireless work ethic. “There’s way too much said about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll,” Kim told Classic Rock. “It’s a cliché. We were all extremely hard-working guys. When we came over to America, we were like a little army. I look at that time as being filled with incredible talent.”
Times changed, of course, and by 1979, Simmonds had moved from a London he no longer recognized – “The punks were everywhere!” – to settle permanently in the States. The Savoy Brown band members came and went, and the music scene shifted around him, but the guitarist stuck thrillingly to his guns, staying true to the music and the muse.
Bands including Jethro Tull, the Doobie Brothers and Kiss supported Savoy Brown to open up their own careers. Not too many bands tour continuously for 50 years. It is a a true rarity to find one at the top of their game. Kim wakes at dawn every day he’s not on the road and goes out to his White Cottage studio to play, sing, write record and continually hone his craft. “Do I have anything left to prove?” considers Kim. “Perhaps not to other people, but to myself, yes. There’s always, inside of you, a song not written or a new guitar lick waiting to come out. I still have the drive I had when was I was young, and that keeps me going.”