If there’s a hole in the time/space continuum – I have no idea what that is, but they do refer to it a lot in ‘Dr Who’ – and the early Seventies are no longer there, the fault might lie with Smokey Mirror. The Dallas quartet’s self-titled debut does nothing to disguise the fact that its roots lie in that period back when rock music, still in its infancy, was stretching out and trying to decide what it was and where it should be going; and the band themselves could easily have been snatched from those formative years to create what is a beautifully paced album, exquisitely performed, yet which to all intents and purposes is the perfect aural magic carpet ride back in time. Or back to the future, perhaps.


From the fabulous attention-grabbing, chord-crashing introduction to frenetic opener ‘Invisible Hand’ to the acoustic motif of ‘Recurring Nightmare’ which wraps things up 42 minutes later ‘Smokey Mirror’ is a fuzzbox delight of gloriously retro riffs and pseudo-psychedelic sounds. It’s a heavy rock blues fusion affair whose songs are hard-edged without being intimidating, and where scuzzy guitars overlay a rhythm which skips along as Cam Martin ranges all over his kit while never losing track of the beat. Yet despite their nostalgic approach the band – vocalist/guitarist Mario Rodriguez, guitarist Caleb Hollowed and bassist Tyler Davis join Martin on this groovy little bop – have delivered an amazingly fresh and vibrant release, which is certainly anything but predictable: the brief harmonica-led rhythm and blues of ‘Fried Vanilla Spider Trapeze’, for example, is quite a curveball, sandwiched as it is between the acid blues of ‘Alpha-State Dissociative Trance’ and the more Monster Magnet-tinged leviathan ‘Sacrificial Altar’.

As was the norm in those early days gone by, you can almost imagine ‘Smokey Mirror’ being the band’s live set played straight to tape in one sprawling overnight session – hence the sassy guitar workouts and drum solo amidst the eight-plus minute ‘Magick Circle’ and the almost freeform naivety of ‘Who’s To Say’. Experimental and inventive, Smokey Mirror have come up with an extraordinarily clever debut, and it’ going to be interesting to see where the Texans take us next.

Video clip: ‘Magic Circle’ -

© John Tucker May 2023