In an age where a sense of mystery is either impossible to achieve or just too desperately strived for, to come across a band of which you know absolutely nothing is a rare treat. Even better is when they turn out to be quite one of the best things you’ve heard all year. El Passo six piece The Royalty are one of the hundreds of American acts who will release a record this year, probably with little or no fanfare on this side of the Atlantic, but Lovers is one that you’d do well to search out.
The premise is one that’s been tried before, put a soulful female vocalist in front of a retro rock ‘n’ roll band, but so rarely pays off. The Royalty, however, are the band that the Alabama Shakes promised to be. Right from the huge opening chords of ‘Bartender’, Lovers has a sound that is not only massive but also natural. Every little nuance rings out as clear as a bell, from the Hammond organ to swaggering guitars and infectious tambourine. Yet what most definitely sets them apart is the voice of Nicole Bordeau. We’ve heard singers of calibre before, but crucially very rarely in this musical context. So while her rich, versatile vocals could have been set against a middle of the road, radio friendly backing here the effect is akin to Dusty Springfield fronting the Hold Steady, or at least a band to fill the gap left by the demise of Rilo Kiley.
Much as it would be tempting for this to become the Bordeau show (and we would be very surprised if no-one had suggested it in the seven years that they’ve been together), she sits comfortably as just another member of the band – testament not only to her colleagues’ skill but also the strength of the material. Lovers is an easy listen in the very best possible sense, a record that flows together beautifully, pleases at every turn and is guaranteed to make your life just a little better.