The general discontent in the world at the moment is so widespread, we get told to embrace it because that's life," says Fabrizio Grossi. "No, that's not life," he asserts. "It's how we're forced to live nowadays. Voodoo Nation refers to the times we're living in, at least here in the States, but I guess the whole world can relate. We're getting to the point where we're living out life almost as Zombies. We're little machines."
But there is hope. There is always hope, which is what Supersonic Blues Machine has always been about.
Voodoo Nation is the band's third studio album and fourth in total and will be released on 24 June via Provogue /Mascot Label Group.
The seeds of Supersonic Blues Machine began in 2010 and grew from the rhythm section of Steve Lukather's side project jam band Goodfellas - bassist Fabrizio Grossi and drumming legend Kenny Aronoff. The pair wanted to continue expanding the Goodfellas concept, determined to create something more than just a "session ensemble for hire."
When ZZ Top's Billy F Gibbons contacted Grossi to collaborate on the writing/producing of a song for an upcoming commercial, all pieces came together. The music didn't become a commercial but had Gibbons giving Fabrizio the suggestion to write "9 more songs" and start a band. That song was "Running Whiskey" and became the first single of Supersonic Blues Machine's 2016s debut album West of Flushing, South of Frisco.
They have continuously operated as a band of comrades and kindred spirits. "The stretched Cadillac of a blues band" has a revolving line-up of star-studded guests, including Billy F. Gibbons, Steve Lukather, Warren Haynes, Eric Gales, Robben Ford, Chris Duarte and more.
At the core has always been Fabrizio Grossi, who has worked with some of the finest musicians around, including Steve Vai, Alice Cooper, George Clinton, Eric Gales, Slash, to name a few and Kenny Aronoff, whose credits include; John Mellencamp, Smashing Pumpkins, Meat Loaf, Brandon Flowers, John Fogerty, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Joe Cocker. Over 300 million records sold worldwide feature his work – 1,300 of which are certified gold, platinum, or diamond records.
British rocker Kris Barras replaced Texan Lance Lopez as singer-guitarist for their 2018 tour, documented on Road Chronicles: Live and cements his place on Voodoo Nation. Barras has a recent UK Top 30 album chart hit in March himself, and he is leading the pack of the British hard rock revival with several A-list singles, BBC Radio appearances and sell-out shows.
On the evolution of the band, Fabrizio says, "Kris comes from this British school of hard rock and blues – Gary Moore and Rory Gallagher and all the bands from the 60s and 70s, that's his school. This is a different sound to Kenny and me with the Allman Brothers, Sly Stone & The Family & Mountain. On Californisoul, we were going more West Coast Funkadelic 60s and overall jam vibe. Blues but with more of a hippy flower power."
"With Kris," he continues, "We thought we need to make sure his footprint is there, so that's why you hear Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Gary Moore on this record…kind of a Union Jack imprint over a Star-Spangled Banner."
The lyrical front on Voodoo Nation is less forgiving than everything in the past. "I'm not saying fuck flower power because that's always the message," Grossi says. "But there are very introspective things and a lot of the theatrics that we are dealing with on this record which I would say are fairly common in the blues but are dealt with a twist. There is a lot of Devil's stuff in this record."
"You cannot completely eliminate darkness out of your life," he adds. "You need to have both elements to balance them out. Just because you're in a good place and positive, it doesn't mean those things don't exist. If you can acknowledge them, you can control them. That's why we embraced the Bluesy-Devilish narrative on several numbers."
There is a reason that Guitarist magazine called them "Guitar's hottest supergroup" as the line-up for Voodoo Nation is another gathering of icons along with some of the most exciting names in blues. Louisiana slide-god Sonny Landreth features on the haunting "8 Ball Lucy." The song is a story about it being "easy to fall into temptation when you're broken down & somebody comes along saying all the right things, that very well resonate with our own disenchanted psyche. That's the true Devil, and she's so good at playing her cards," he says. "Since the Devil came to town, and she said: Your God is too busy for you! I know it's wrong; She said I'll make you a deal, And I'm not gonna tell you, what to do, who to choose or kill… but she will," Barras croons over Landreth's haunting slide.
They tackle greed on "Money." "Greed alone is not the ultimate problem; it's greed combined with the lack of respect for everybody else". The 8-minute "Devil at the Doorstep" features Eric Gales – whose own recent album Crown was a #1 Blues Billboard hit. The song is a studio representation of what happens when they play live with Gales. "With Eric, it can start as a 3-minute 12 bars Blues and morph into an epic Led Zeppelin Dazed and Confused thing. I also think it's a perfect soundtrack for a horror movie…If the story wasn't real!" Grossi adds.
They underline problems faced by musicians on "Coming Thru" and "Get It Done" - the latter features Los Angeles based virtuoso Josh Smith. "Do It Again" is another firecracker that rounds off the theme and features Ana Popovic, which is about "the happiness and blessing of being able to do what you love."
Young Harlem blues-sensation King Solomon Hicks takes on lead vocals and guitar on the call to arms "You and Me." The band's trademark soulful blues sound can be heard beautifully on "I Will Let It Go," featuring Kirk Fletcher, and the sumptuous "Is It All", featuring the legendary Joe Louis Walker, which sees him and Barras trade vocals on the stunning soul ballad. "This is our perfect balance between soul, rock and blues," Grossi says. "There's that 60s vibe; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Buffalo Springfield vocal harmonies. Joe totally got it. You get to a point where you analyse your life. Are you doing everything you can or want to do, or are you limiting yourself?"
The title track locks in the feeling of general discontent in society. "The lyrics and the way the song is structured is very Pink Floyd inspired, but is applied by the way we see things, so there's also a Zeppelin, Cream and even. Mountain rage to it. You can also hear some Allman Brothers. It's world music, not in the musical sense but the message. It's an applicable message for everyone."
Supersonic Blues Machine reflects how they see the world through their lens, and never far is a message of hope. The album closes with the inspirational Rootsy Rock Bluesy "All Our Love" featuring Blackberry Smoke's Charlie Starr.
The song came together in the summer of 2020 whilst there were the biggest fires in living memory in California. "I was going to drop off some donated clothes in Woodland Hills– many people had to abandon their homes and stay in shelters, and anything was of help", Grossi explains. "We were heading down there through the infamous 405 and were literally driving through fire. There were fires on both sides of the road."
"I realised that we're in one of the world's richest cities, and there's discontent, plus climate change and everything else going on. How is this happening? It's total devastation. I was like, no, no, we need a major reset here. For all the wrongs in the world to be fixed, it requires all our love. That's the song, a message of hope," Grossi ends.