Riff Diamond is a contemporary blues rock band from Northern Ireland that draws on the best traditions of many classic and modern artists of the genre (Muddy Waters, BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, Clapton, Hendrix, Gilmour, Bonamassa, Led Zeppelin, Free, Etta James and so many more) while still following their own, distinctively rocking and bluesy, path and developing their own sound. They aim to embody the “old-fashioned” values of well-crafted melodies and harmonies, thoughtful lyrics and virtuoso musicianship. They all believe there is a groundswell movement among the public. And hot dog, Sapphire is a cosmic sonic effort to wrap your ears around a hundred times. It is the type of classic rock album which is definitely in demand, and even though I am new to this band, it’s as if I’ve heard them for years already. That’s a sound you can’t deny when you hear it, even though you can’t quite put your finger on it. This album has it all, from classic and hard rock to country and blues, including two great covers that threaten to contend with their original counterparts. It’s not every day you hear a female fronted band that harks back to the Stones and Janis in one fell swoop.
“Shadowman” is the opening track, with one of the stand out attempts at a single from the original selections. This little gem is perfect for their speed to get your blood racing without coming on too strong yet. It would be a great show opener as well. I found it one of the more pleasing songs once running through them on repeat. It sticks with the best of them. This is followed by the more complex arrangements of “Masquerade” which takes a lot more getting into, but might be just as good. Between the two of these cuts there is nothing to complain one bit about, as both do the album justice at the outset.
“Diamond Heart” and “29 Days” are next up, with some of the less inspiring moments had between them, as they make room for more. And it’s just enough for the power of “Kick In the Teeth” to come rocking in with a much higher ferocity. It’s just better than the previous two, to my ears. But it’s all good here with not one bad track to be found on Sapphire. “Phoenix” and “Count Me Out” have more going for them too. As they both pulsate what this album is all about. They cook all over the place and allow singer Becky Baxter to shine as she does so incredibly well. A star could very well be in the making.
But there is more, the well done redux of “Whole Lotte Love” they recorded with a lot of brave guts and pulled off with flying colors. There is no denying their efforts were worth making to get their own signature placed upon this. And my favorite song on the album is “Love Hate” with both the guitar and vocals putting in the finest work on what is a great rock and blues album. This is where the country blues creeps in and you can’t set it down. Just a sizzling hot, magnificent tune with some mesmerizingly sublime guitar soling. And it all finishes nicely with a bold cover of “Hey Joe” that also promises to turn ears and ultimately eyes to Beck Baxter herself.