DION – Blues with Friends

Blues with Friends
KTBA Records

My, My, Hey, Hey, This Rock & Roll Legend is Here To Stay.

It’s kinda reassuring when someone who features so strongly in the soundtrack of your childhood continues to record quality music 60+ years later. Whilst he left The Belmonts behind in 1960 after hits such as “I Wonder Why” and “A Teenager in Love” he then went on to massive pop success in the 1960’s with the likes of “Runaround Sue”, “The Wanderer” and many, many more meaning Bronxman, Dion DiMucci is the epitome of being a Rock & Roll survivor.
Fact is, this is the 8th Decade in which Dion has released music and “Blues With Friends” could just be his best yet.
As the title suggests there are guests, indeed each track has one, but not just any old guests, these privileged invitees are all top notch, established, stars in their own rights.
However, Dion co-wrote 12 of the tracks with Mike Aquilina (and co-wrote the others with Buddy Lucas, then with Bill Tuohy) and the stone cold fact is they provide a good mix of sub-genres to deliver variation and subtlety over a wide spectrum.
It helps that Joe Bonamassa is involved, as the album is released on his new label Keeping the Blues Alive Records and Joe features on track #1 “Blues Coming On”, indeed this was the initial track that got the whole project off the ground. It’s a solid, well conceived song that Joe then takes to new levels with his trademark guitar playing.
Next up is “Kickin’ Child” a song that Dion wrote and first recorded in 1965, then yet again as the title track to an album in 2017, but here he re-records for the third time with Joe Menza who clearly knew where to take the song with his fresh guitar licks.
Another song that he wrote many years ago is “Song for Sam Cooke (Here in America)” and sharing the vocals is none other than Paul Simon; and takes Mr. DiMucci (and all us listeners) back to walking Southern streets with Sam Cooke in 1962.
“Uptown Number 7” is a sort of Gospel, spiritual type effort with Stray Cat, Brian Setzer’s guitar helping the train chug along the track very nicely indeed.
The Country Blues of “Can’t Start Over Again,” with hints of Hank Williams is all about love, loss and heartache with the brilliant Jeff Beck adding his precise touch.
You get 2 for the price of 1 on a couple of tracks with vocals from Van Morrison and guitar from Joe Louis Walker on “I Got Nothin’” and “Stumbling Blues” has the highly regarded Vivino Brothers (Jimmy & Jerry) doing what they do best.
On this feast, you also have tracks that featuring the likes of Rory Block, John Hammond Jnr, Stevie Van Zandt, Samantha Fish, Sonny Landreth and Billy Gibbons as featured guests too; but you never ever forget that it is the Legendary Dion DiMucci on vocals.
Nevertheless, it’s another re-recorded song, “Hymn to Him” (originally from Dion’s 1987 gospel album “Velvet & Steel”) that steals the show for me, it’s another 2 for the price of 1 offer that features Patti Scialfa on vocals and her husband, someone by the name of Bruce somebody or other, who supplies sublime guitar solo adding a magical pinnacle to a marvellous release from a true legend.
Mr. Springsteen (for it is he) and Dion are genuine life-long friends, as are most of the other guests here; and it’s an absolute joy to listen to each track on this fine, well constructed and well balanced album.
The album took shape throughout 2019 and early 2020, produced by Wayne Hood in his Florida studio where the basic tracks were laid down. I’ve always been a sucker for collaborations and/or tribute albums and this release undoubtedly hits my personal bulls-eye.
By the way, in line with current trends, if you can’t wait until 5th. June, the full album will be preceded by a staggered release of singles from the album as follows:

24th April “Blues Comin ’On” with Joe Bonamassa
1st May “Hymn To Him” with Patti Scialfa & Bruce Springsteen
8th May “Bam Bang Boom” with Billy Gibbons
15th May “I Got Nothin’” with Van Morrison & Joe Louis Walker
22nd May “Can’t Start Over Again” with Jeff Beck
29th May “Song For Sam Cooke (Here In America)” with Paul Simon

Released 5th. June 2020
Pre-order www.ktbarecords.com
Review by Jack Kidd aka “Messin’ with the Kidd” Tuesdays on https://www.lionheartradio.com/

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