Today’s Artist Spotlight focuses on a keyboard player who has spent years supporting the Moody Blues and more recently the John Lodge Band but is on board Cruise to the Edge with his own band: Alan Hewitt & One Nation. Mixing vocal pieces with exciting instrumentals, Hewitt and his band deliver a spirited blend of rock, fusion and prog-rock. Hewitt is well-experienced as a band leader but it must be satisfying to bring his own music to the fore, having released two engaging albums “Evolution” and “2021”. His keyboard style takes clear inspiration from Keith Emerson and other classic influences, whether it’s on poppier pieces like “One Step Closer” or instrumental workouts like “Return To Orion” and the ripping fusion of “Volt”. For fans of bands like the Moody Blues this is an obvious choice to catch on-board but many other fans of jazz and pop prog will also want to check them out.
The “One Nation” members are top notch veterans and really propel this material forward. Guitarist Duffy King plays alongside Hewitt in the John Lodge Band, letting it rip when needed and playing with notable grace and taste. The rhythm section of Billy Ashbaugh and David Johnson really deliver, guaranteeing this to be an exciting band to catch in concert.
Cruise to the Edge passengers will get to catch a shorter set at the pre-cruise party and then on board they’ll be doing two full shows. They’ll feature tracks from both albums in their CTTE sets, you can read a review of “2021” below. This is a great, uplifting band, perfect for a music Cruise like this!
Alan Hewitt & One Nation – 2021 (Independent)
Alan Hewitt’s band One Nation serves up a slick fusion of rock, pop, prog and jazz. The Moody Blues factors heavily into their makeup, with Hewitt and drummer Billy Ashbaugh being active members of the most recent incarnation of the Moodies as well as John Lodge’s solo band, in addition to guitarist Duffy King who also tours with Lodge. Moodies fans will easily be swooned by the 80s pop sheen of songs like “Hard Rain” and “High Above” but don’t be fooled – there’s a startling amount of musical muscle in this band, which also includes ace bassist David C. Johnson. Opener “One Step Closer” is the most successful at melding the pop choruses with engaging instrumental sections, Hewitt’s keyboard attack suggesting a Keith Emerson fervor while Ashbaugh’s well-panned drum kit surrounds the listener on this magnificent piece.
Several instrumentals pepper the the track listing and this is where the band really lets loose, often approaching jazz fusion territory. “Volt” injects the necessary amount of electricity, Johnson’s rhythmic pulse on the bass laying down a perfect groove for an utterly joyous fusion romp. “Enigma” starts off as a symphonic piano piece, later opening up with King’s lead electric guitar as it embodies the instrumental’s title. But it’s the progified 7-minute “Return to Orion” where the band shines as a whole, starting off with delicious lead bass lines from Johnson. Weaving strong themes throughout this journey, this is a musical tour de force, propelled by Ashbaugh’s drumming and featuring King’s guitar soloing non-stop right up to his tasty final chord swells to close the album. Of course, Hewitt is our constant conductor on an array of keyboards and piano through all of these pieces, ensuring that no stone is left unturned in each twist and turn of the material.
The band even delivers a theme song of sorts with “We’re One Nation”, though the hooky gimmick of so many words ending with “—tion” can’t help but conjure images of Adam Sandler’s Cajun Man doing a little parody in song. Nevertheless, the positivity of the song wins in the end and King comes through with a memorable guitar solo as a bonus. Hewitt’s talents also include production skills, making “2021” a great listen sonically-speaking. Being the main songwriter and bandleader, Hewitt has much to be proud of in this project. It’s rewarding to see top-tier supporting musicians (of the Moodies, Lodge and others) have the opportunity to fully flesh out their own identity while making stirring music that’s so enjoyable and engaging.
“2021” track listing:
- One Step Closer
- Hard Rain
- We’re One Nation
- High Above
- The Enigma
- Madhatter’s Illusion
- Return to Orion