Savoy Brown leader Kim Simmonds will readily admit that he is a demanding person.
It’s part of the reason the lead guitarist has been the only consistent member of the British blues rock band that he first formed in 1965. For more than 40 years, Simmonds has led the group through many different instrumental setups, that have at times included harmonica, keyboards, extra guitars and even saxophone. Perhaps the band’s most remembered lineup in the early ’70s featured vocalist Chris Youlden along with future Foghat members Dave Peverett on guitar, bassist Rivers Jobe and drummer Roger Earl.
During the 2000s, Simmonds felt that a stripping-down of the band was in order. He restructured Savoy Brown into a power trio, taking on the lead vocals himself in addition to lead guitar. Though the new lineup produced two albums and response was strong at the shows, he found himself becoming “a complete nutcase.”
“I was doing everything — singing, playing, writing — and I was very hard to be around, for one thing,” he said from his home just outside Syracuse a week prior to heading out on Savoy Brown’s first date of 2012, a one-off bill with Johnny Winter at The Egg’s Hart Theatre on Saturday night.
What: Opening for Johnny Winter
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany
How Much: $29.50
More Info: 473-1845, www.theegg.org
“The pressure was ridiculous, even with me staying out of the limelight as I did for a time. It was very difficult for the guys in the band to be around me. It’s demanding, and so I realized that I was becoming a more demanding person — and I am a demanding person anyway.”
“And physically, I was feeling it,” he continued.
“I’m taking on a lot of work here, and when it’s constantly, constantly, constantly, you get the drip-drip effect. So it was having an effect on me physically, as well as on the people around me. . . . I just had an epiphany — I want to do things like I used to do things.”
It wasn’t just the frontman role that was bothering him. By 2009, the band’s lineup had solidified with Gerry Sorrentino on bass and Mario Staiano on drums, but with everyone scattered throughout the U.S., regular practices became difficult to achieve. Bassist Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnet Grimm, both Syracuse locals who had worked with Simmonds on his 2008 solo record “Out of the Blue,” came on board. Vocalist Joe Whiting, who had also worked with Simmonds in the ’80s, joined the group shortly thereafter.
“It got to the point where I need a band where I could rehearse more — I felt I couldn’t make the progress I needed to do without having a better rehearsal schedule,” Simmonds said. “It just so happened that everybody was available and they wanted to join up with me — other times, they might not have been able to.”
After two years of woodshedding and tours, the new lineup made its recording debut on “Voodoo Moon,” Savoy Brown’s first studio album since 2007’s “Steel.” And with everyone being close by, intense rehearsals were an important part of the recording process.
“We were able to rehearse a lot, and that was a key thing to making ‘Voodoo Moon,’ that ability,” Simmonds said. “If I had some material, instead of saying, ‘This song’s good; let’s try this version,’ or a different version, some of the songs morphed through five or six variations of tempo and style until I eventually said this is the way we should go. Having that ability to be able to — is ‘woodshed’ the word?— to be able to woodshed made for a better record, rather than it just being ultra-spontaneous — ‘I’ve got these songs, let’s bang them out.’ And that can work, but that’s not how I wanted to do it for the new record.”
Working on solos
For his part, Simmonds spent extra time concentrating on the album’s guitar solos.
“Especially the older you get, you tend to get even more spontaneous [in your playing] because you know how to do it backwards,” he said. “What happens is, you tend to get to a point where you play a solo, any solo, in two minutes, and it’s as good as anything you’ve done. It’s not a question of ‘Can I play a solo on the guitar?’ and I certainly didn’t take a ton of time with the solos, but I did research them better. I thought about it better, before I actually banged out a solo, and listened to what I used to do in the past. So it was a much more thought-out record.”
The process resulted in an album that in some ways recalls the band’s classic ’70s material, while maintaining the spontaneous feel of the later albums.
After rehearsals, the actual recording process moved quickly. Simmonds is also still singing lead on two of the album’s tracks.
“I think that it’s the best of both worlds, really,” he said. “You always could hear records in the past, that you knew weren’t worked on in the past. You knew when they were very prepared and had well-written songs.”
Fans have responded well to the new songs, which have held up alongside classics like “Train to Nowhere” in the live setting.
“We’ve been playing it out now for a couple years, some of the material,” Simmonds said. “All of the regular fans are very excited with the material, and people say the new material is as strong as the old material. . . . There are probably very few bands out there doing that at the moment, of our ilk, so it’s great for the fans. All of a sudden, it re-energizes things.”