Following their impressive 2017 debut album, “The Freedom Sessions,” the Toronto-based acoustic-soul band Black Suit Devil are releasing their sophomore album, “A Matter Of Time” this Friday. Having shared the title track as the first teaser single earlier this year, it became immediately apparent that singer-songwriter Andy Du Rego was not willing to rest on his laurels and simply replicate the formula that made his debut a success. With an unexpected burst of horns and up-tempo soul vibe to commence the album’s title track, Black Suit Devil quickly demonstrate a significant shift in the evolution of their sound; further reinforced upon hearing the following singles, “Firefly” and “Heart Of Sin,” along with a willingness to continually push beyond their own boundaries.
“I think this is by far the best set of songs that I’ve written over the years, and I’ve gained my confidence as a singer-songwriter,” offers Du Rego. “The main theme of this one is to [add] influences that I grew up with over the years…and not limit myself to just one genre.” I noted during a review of “The Freedom Sessions” that Du Rego’s sound was influenced by esteemed artists such as John Fogerty, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young, with the latter in particular carrying over to this new album. Spinning the new album a few times, however, the distinct and diverse sounds of Bob Dylan, Chris Cornell and Ray LaMontagne have filtered through in this musical evolution. Heavily steeped in political angst and New Orleans jazz, complete with lively electric guitars and not-so-subtle instrumentation, Du Rego credits the earlier works and frantic growling style of musician Tom Waits as his strongest and most recent influence for the new music.
For those strongly familiar with the debut album, the most significant difference found on “A Matter Of Time” is the average length of each composition. Most tracks on “The Freedom Sessions” are deliberately drawn out and atmospheric; a complete contrast to the shorter and livelier offerings found here. Just three of the nine tracks on the debut clocked in with run times under five minutes, yet here, only two of the ten new songs break past the five minute mark. The one constant, however, that binds both albums together, is Du Rego’s understated ability to construct powerful, deeply resonating lyrics from his own life experiences, social observations and political critique, wrapping his raspy vocals in the outstanding musicianship of this ensemble.
Life experiences, as encountered in “January,” an uplifting and emotional piano-ballad focused on grief and the loss of his beloved grandmother. Social observations, as tackled in “Main Street,” a busking-style jam that draws awareness to social inequalities and vast homelessness he encountered during a casual stroll through Hastings, BC. “I could not believe the devastation in front of me,” he shares. “Across the street just a short walk away was a music festival…and I was absolutely stunned seeing all these people having a good time, and then turning slightly and seeing the by-product of our society; the poverty, mental-illness and drugs.” And there is plenty of political critique, from issues surrounding indigenous land rights and exploitation of natural resources (“Heart Of Sin”), to fears surrounding North American politics, self-medicating, and other contemporary social issues (“I Blame Us All”). The title track has a politically charged narrative too (don’t let those upbeat horns fool you), tackling corporate greed, social uprising, and the need to protect ourselves and our resources.
Balancing the intensity of these powerful statements across the album are a pair of light-hearted compositions that allow your blood pressure to ease for a few moments. “Queer Boy Blues” offers a tongue-in-cheek bluegrass number that brings awareness to LGBTQ+ issues, with a strong focus on strength and empowerment. “Firefly” pays tribute to the classic rock n roll sound, complete with retro guitar riffs, a Southern boogie style, and finished with some phenomenal backing vocals from Mae Cromwell (GRACE), whose contribution will have you hitting the repeat button more than once.
“A Matter Of Time” is a remarkable new album from Black Suit Devil; one that shares the genetics of “The Freedom Sessions,” yet simultaneously looks ahead with a noticeable maturity in sound, content, and the confidence of this band. Andy Du Rego surrounds himself with a talented ensemble to create this second chapter in Black Suit Devil’s musical legacy, with hints of much more yet to come. For those of your fortunate to be in downtown Toronto this Friday evening, be sure to catch the formal album release party at The Rivoli, and revel in a full-band performance that promises to have Queen Street rocking into the wee hours. A strong sophomore album that comes very highly recommended.