The Great Escape sounds like they have much more than three members, as most of the tracks on their debut self-titled album are raucous, powerful and blues-and-soul-driven. This sound is in a large part due to the vocals of Amie Miriello, but also the high-energy production of Malfe Hagemeister and Kristian Nord, who play guitar and drums in the band respectively. With the obvious influences of Jains Joplin, Melissa Etheridge and the Neville Brothers in their back pockets, these three strive to create something new with a heavy vein of classic rock and blues, attempting to fuse all of these influences with some California fun.
With their heavy gospel, soul and blues influence, it is difficult to imagine that The Great Escape is comprised of two native Germans and a girl from Connecticut. Amie Miriello met Malfe Hagemeister and Kristian Nord while each of them was writing songs for other artists. The trio found a common goal in each other of creating a sound which honored the raw power of 60s and 70s blues/rock fusion without the seeming irony or hipster cache of some other modern acts. This is not to say the group is not also influenced by the likes of The White Stripes, Mumford and Sons and other Americana-throwback acts. If anything they aspire to be in the same category as these modern blues heavy hitters, but with their own Golden State inspiration and flare.
Miriello’s powerhouse pipes are the driving force in The Great Escape, released in September, and Hagemeister and Nord do their best to keep up with her. The band also conscripted the horn skills of Katja Riekermann and blues harp of Stanley Behrens for more blues effect when necessary. Miriello belts out her vocals with great passion on tracks like the opener, All I Think About, and will remind audiences of Janis Joplin tempered with a little Adele, or a more versatile Duffy.
Of the nine songs on The Great Escape, a full seven of them are high energy, raucous, and full of everything this trio loves about American music. The belting out of blues tunes can get to be a little much by the end, however, as there is barely a pause for reflection, and within these power jams, a decrescendo or change in tempo would be welcome. The Great Escape is above all, however, best experienced live. To be sure these high energy tracks translate amazingly well when the band is performing, and their live shows in Los Angeles are almost always packed.
Two of the tracks on the band’s debut album, Don’t Wake Me Up and I Just Can’t Help Myself, are more toned down and quiet. For all its bravado and rough-edged passion, Miriello’s voice does marvelously well in this state, and these two songs are the most emotionally honest and musically solid out of the whole album. Heigemeister’s guitar and Nord’s drums support her voice gently, and the songs tell a story both lyrically and musically. In these two songs, Miriello achieves the emotional depth which sets Janis Joplin apart from other power-vocal blues singers, and they show her tremendous potential.
The Great Escape claims a desire to achieve a rawness and power in their music, but in a few tracks on their album it may seem a little too unbridled. In a live setting, this may not be an issue, however, and the band also shows tremendous potential if they can temper this zeal with technique and broaden their range a bit. It is simply a question of three musicians who have such a fervent love for Americana music, the album may have been overly ambitious in translating that passion. The talent and know-how is also there, so The Great Escape will more than likely find their way as they work together.
The debut album is definitely worth streaming on Soundcloud, and Don’t Wake Me Up and I Just Can’t Help Myself are the best bets for purchase. The album can be purchased in full or single-by-single via The Great Escape’s website, which links to their Bandcamp page. It is also available on itunes in full or by single. Links are listed in “Sources.”
Review by Layla Klamt