Nobody Told Me
Forty Below Records
Founding Father Proves Electric Blues is in Fine Fettle.
For a genuine ‘Living Legend’ John Mayall sure does divide opinion among the cognoscenti I call my peers. On the plus side I have one friend who not only goes to see him every time he visits the North East, but has actually bought two Mayall albums this century.
The others, like me cast a wistful eye back to the cusp of the late 60’s and early 70’s when the Blues Maestro had his Bluesbreakers band and was a stepping stone for guitarists Green, Clapton, Taylor (and much later Walter Trout)……. but get them to name an album from his 35 album back catalogue dries up after the Beano Cover (1966) and two mentions for Blues From Laurel Canyon (1968)!
Which brings me to this, John Mayall’s 36th Studio album in a career stretching back over half a century, and featuring a host, nay…… a myriad of today’s finest Blues guitarists guesting on each and every track.
The distinctive liquid platinum sound of Joe Bonamassa’s guitar playing permeates opening track What Have I Done Wrong; although for me, the biggest and best surprise (after all these years) is how deep and raspy John Mayall’s voice is…….. very BB King in tone, and with the horn section from Conan O’Brien’s house band sounding like their lives depend on hitting those notes….. I’m in for the long haul!
While the album does feature a vast array of household names on guitar; none even try to get anywhere near overshadowing Mayall’s amazing voice and whip smart songs.
Bonamassa makes a second appearance on the atmospheric Delta Hurricane, which to some degree is the song that proves a cornerstone for what goes before it and subsequently follows here; it’s a personal history of The Blues, as sung by the Founding Father of British Blues; which went on to beget and influence every guitar band that ever existed in the America’s, North and South (discuss?).
Of the Guest Stars, Todd Rundgren turns up on That’s What Love Will Do, Larry McCray does his funky stuff on The Hurt Inside and Stevie Van Zandt provides the perfect foil to Mayall on the supercool and sultry It’s So Tough, and the world is probably a better place for their inclusion…… but all of these songs are certainly good enough and strong enough to just stand on their own merits.
All I really want to do is talk about the songs and how much I’ve quickly fallen in love with Mayall’s voice; but I keep feeling obliged to mention the guitarists; especially as a couple are new to me.
Carolyn Wonderland, from his current ensemble adds her magic sparkle to three tracks; with the Swinging Chicago sound that ripples through Like It Like You Do; being her finest moment and the song a contender for Favourite Track status.
The other new name to me is Alex Lifeson, who contributes some searing Mick Taylor like guitar on the dark Evil and Here To Stay which also features some tinkling ‘Orleans style piano and Mayall’s haunting harmonica solo’s and it stood out the first time I played the album and yet again this morning so this is my Favourite Track on a very impressive and comprehensive display of Contemporary Blues Music that leans on the past but shoots for the future.
It’s been well over 40 years since I last listened to a John Mayall album (Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton aka The Beano Cover) which was a turning point in my musical heritage; and I’ve listened to a Helluva lot of Blues albums in the intervening years so my final thoughts on NOBODY TOLD ME is that it sounds nothing like my memory of John Mayall at all; and is all the better for that as it’s full of his great modern and post-modern well constructed songs and shows that Electric Blues is in fine fettle and doesn’t need to rely on ‘Rock’ at all.
Released February 22nd 2019