The entire concept of a “supergroup” requires that at least some of the parties involved were “super” individually, prior to forming a band together. An unfortunate side effect of this is that when they have bills to pay, or get tired of working with their bandmates, they can always go back to whatever they were doing before. This is what led to the demise of Black Country Communion, when guitar superstar Joe Bonamassa returned to his solo career, taking BCC keyboardist Derek Sherinian with him. Undaunted, bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) and John Bonham stunt double Jason Bonham carried on, enlisting unknown guitarist Andrew Watt.
On paper, California Breed is generally in the same ’70s rock wheelhouse as BCC, but the difference is in the details. The band has stated their intention to make a classic power-trio record, influenced by greats like Cream and Hendrix. By taking that approach, the songs become the main focus, and there’s plenty of room for each member to shine without showing off. California Breed feels like a sweaty, greasy, authentic rock n’ roll album in a way that the previous band didn’t quite achieve.
Song-for-song, the record is pretty damn solid as well. “The Way” kicks off with the kind of fat groove that made Bonham’s dad famous, topped off with Hughes’ bluesy wail. “Chemical Rain” splits the difference between psychedelia and power ballad, with a beautiful chorus alongside a plodding main riff. Another highlight is the gorgeous slow jam “All Falls Down,” in which Watt briefly transforms into Pride & Glory-era Zakk Wylde to deliver the album’s finest solo.
Not all of it works — “Days They Come” and “Invisible” betray Watt’s age by being a little too “modern rock” for their own good. The first two singles, “Sweet Tea” and “Midnight Oil,” are surprisingly generic, and there’s some filler during the record’s second half. It’s worth noting that the bands that influenced the Breed rarely made albums longer than 30 minutes, whereas this record is nearly twice that. (This kind of reinforces Angry Metal Guy’s “45 minute” theory).
Bringing in a 22-year-old unknown is a ballsy move for established vets like Hughes and Bonham — but on the other hand, Watt doesn’t have a lucrative solo career for them to compete with. Musically speaking, Watt brings much of the flavor to California Breed. His style is organic and soaked with psychedelia and he’s the Jimi Hendrix to Bonamassa’s Jimmy Page. While he doesn’t quite have a distinct style of his own just yet, he does possess a knack for guitar tones and playing to complement the song.
The two old guys in the band are no slouches either. As cliché as it is to say that Jason Bonham “does his father proud” or whatever, he does play in a similar style and does it well. Glenn Hughes voice is strong as ever, including his uncanny ability to sound like a 70-year-old black woman when necessary. His bass work is still rooted in funk and soul music, lending groove to even the heaviest material. It’s worth mentioning that over the last couple decades, Hughes has made about a billion albums, either solo or with collaborators. The man obviously has a fire under his ass that compels him to make music, and that is worthy of respect.
Only time will tell if California Breed will stick around, and if Watt will live up to his potential as a musician. In the meantime, they may not be breaking new ground, but they offer good music that is worth checking out. (And as an added bonus, I don’t have to hear Derek Sherinian play fucking keyboards all over it.) If you’re a fan of Glenn Hughes’ other work, or rock music in general, give this a shot.