As a man who looks to be dressed for an Old West card game, it follows that Troy Redfern has never been afraid to try his luck.
There was the time the Herefordshire slide guitarist stepped on stage unrehearsed for an allstar jam at Poland’s Satyr Blues Festival – “Bumblefoot from Guns N’ Roses just handed me a double-neck fretless guitar, which I’d never played before in my life”.
Or how about the time Redfern risked abject humiliation by following a golden god – but emphatically held his own. “Deborah Bonham was on the bill before us at a festival, and Robert Plant joined her for the last song. The crowd was surging, and we’re thinking that everyone is gonna go home afterwards, but we smashed it.”
Since setting out in 2015, Redfern has seen first-hand the giant leaps a new artist can make by never ducking a challenge. Every ding on his 1929 National Triolian resonator guitar is testament to his hyperactive recording schedule (last year he released a frankly ludicrous five albums) and never-say-no gigging philosophy (he’s played everywhere from Scandinavia to Russia).
But creatively – not to mention financially – this year’s The Fire Cosmic album is Redfern’s biggest gamble to date. “I’ve always recorded everything, played all the instruments, mixed my albums myself. So to hire these great players, pay for sessions at Rockfield and ask Paul Winstanley to produce, that was a huge letting go of the reins. I hadn’t physically met the band before. We didn’t even have a rehearsal!”
That’s Hans Zimmer’s occasional sideman Dave Marks you hear on bass. That’s the aforementioned Bumblefoot, spraying a bona fide American-made shred solo over the sleaze-rocking On Fire. Those break-your-nose drum fills, meanwhile, come from Darkness and Gary Moore alumnus Darby Todd. “Darby is a monster, such a heavy hitter,” says Redfern, “and that really set the sound of the album.”
But it’s Redfern himself who pushes the envelope furthest, with songs that were born from chaos but ultimately unfold like road movies (Scorpio) and lost Aerosmith classics (Lay That Love Down).
“I’m from the David Bowie or William S Burroughs school of ‘cut up’ lyrics,” he explains. “I turned off any filter, sang phonetically and then worked backwards from that initial outburst. There’s a lot about relationships and freedom, and the imagery on songs like Scorpio has the vibe of a movie like From Dusk Till Dawn.”
When we speak to Redfern, his head is still spinning, the sessions now more like a happy dream he has to keep checking actually happened. But if this album really was an Old West card game, this lifelong gambler just played his ace. “It’s all a bit of a blur for me,” he admits. “Making this album was a huge risk. But the way it’s come out… it’s really upped my game.”