Samantha Fish KILL OR BE KIND

Samantha Fish
Kill or Be Kind
Rounder Records/Proper Records

A Heady Mix of Sleazy Soul, Heartbreaking Blues and Fizzing Rock & Roll!

#SPOILER ALERT!
I’ve never really been convinced by Samantha Fish just being pigeon-holed as a Blues Rocker, as I’ve always believed she had much more in her tool-box than that; and hot on the heels of her ‘game changing’ BELLE OF THE WEST album; I’m pretty sure I’m finally being proved correct with this fabulous release.
While there’s still a lot of ‘Classic Blues’ in Samantha’s riffs on opening track Bulletproof, it is actually a bonafide Rocker of the finest hue; and will blow the minds of fans from her earliest days. This is a love song that purrs and growls in equal measure; owing as much to Tina Turner and Sister Rosetta Sharp as it does Muddy Waters.
Leaving us gasping for breath, Ms Fish thankfully slows things with the slow and sensuous title track Kill or Be Kind which comes next; and this time male listeners will be left all hot and bothered as her sleazy guitar licks and salacious lyrics combine in a way that is still illegal in several Southern States.
It’s a given that Samantha Fish is a fine and often fascinating guitarist …… never just relying on meandering solos to catch your attention; as is proved here on She Don’t Live Around Here and Watch It Die which show beyond all comprehension what an amazing guitarist she is.
I know most of these songs are collaborations; but listen to her lyrics and stories but one of the joys about the songwriting and storytelling here is that in Samantha Fish’s hands the likes of Try Not To Fall In Love With You and even more so perhaps; the fabulous whizz-bang, rocking and rolling Love Your Lies are feminist Power Pop for the 21st Century; but it wouldn’t take much imagination for a male singer, or even Country singer (male or female?) to alter them slightly and make them into huge crossover hits; such is the skill in Ms. Fish’s writing.
That’s not to say the singer herself doesn’t deserve to have hits with either song herself; I’m just saying she’s a damn fine songwriter and song interpreter in every capacity.
If you want ‘radio friendly’ try the soulful heartbreaker Dream Girl, which is quite timeless and the quiver in the singer’s voice will really, really tug at your heartstrings.
For my Favourite Song I’m torn between the thoughtful and starkly beautiful Fair Weather and the lecherous Dirty, which finds Samantha tip-toeing into Etta James territory, but with a ouch of Dusty in the shadows too; so I’m actually choosing the latter as it has so much going for it.
In the Press Release Samantha use the word ‘vintage’ several times; and I can easily hear why; but that’s not to say anything here is old-fashioned in the way she mixes The Blues with Super-Cool Soul and some fizzing Rock & Roll too when necessary creating her very own distinctive sound, and one that that will surely make KILL OR BE KIND her best seller to date.

Released September 20th 2019
https://www.samanthafish.com/

Luca Kiella FIGURE IT OUT

Luca Kiella
Figure It Out
Self-Release

Late Night Italian-American Blues From Downtown Chicago.

This has been a major surprise for us here at RMHQ; a pleasant one, but a surprise none the less. Mostly because the stable it came from is more recognised as supplying us with some of the sharpest Rhythm and Blues in the Western Hemisphere; and that sure ain’t the way to describe Italian singer-pianist Luca Kiella at all.
That said, he really does play The Blues but it’s that late night, nightclub style that we normally associate with Brother Ray or more recently Mr Jon Cleary or the British star Jamie Cullum; but with an added contemporary edge to his songs.
The glorious instrumental Ten O’Clock Blues gets the show on the road in a clever way; nodding to the likes of Monk and Dr. John in the way Kiella tinkles the ivories; but never ever sounding like either on a classy tune that’s just waiting for a TV advert.
This is followed by Kiella’s homage to his hero with a reverential rendition of Jon Cleary’s Unnecessarily Mercenary that will get the toes a’tappin and the brain cells working overtime.
Choosing to cover Don Gibson’s I Can’t Stop Loving You in this format is a brave and possibly even dangerous choice; but Luca treads that tightrope without a safety net; and gives it everything he has coming out the other end with a rather sexy love song that will make the ladies go weak at the knees, and the men grooving along to the wonderful Jimmy Smith style organ sweeps and Aaron Weistrop’s super cool guitar licks too.
This 5 track EP closes with a startling song called So Many Questions, which needs to be played with the lights turned way down low; as our Italian friend tells his story of leaving home to cross an ocean for the love of music; and if his piano playing doesn’t move you…… you don’t have a soul!
I normally like to be contrary when it comes to choosing a Favourite Song; but I have to agree with the record company publicist this time; and go for the title track and single, Figure It Out, a really swinging Jazzy Blues tune with an edgy song sung in Luca’s finest Italian-American accent. Winner, winner, winner!
For a debut there’s a whole lot to like here; nothing more so than Luca Kiella’s superb keyboard skills and his delightful voice which will get even better the older he gets.

Released April 10th 2019
https://www.lucakiella.com/
http://store.cdbaby.com/cd/lucakiella



Kenny ‘Beedy Eyes’ Smith DROP THE HAMMER

Kenny ‘Beedy Eyes’ Smith
Drop The Hammer
Big Eye Records

Cool Contemporary Blues & Soul With a Hearty Nod to The Past.

Oooohhhheeee!
To some degree is all you need to know about this collection of Modern and contemporary Blues songs sung and written by Grammy Award winning drummer Kenny ‘Beedy Eyes’ Smith.
What the Hell’s not to like right from the beginning, as a bottle-neck guitar AND sitar precedes Smith’s ‘tattered velvet’ drawl that is so authentic I swear you can smell the swamps, sweat and sexual tension throughout every single second.
For a man whose Father Willie sat at the back of the stage keeping time with the legendary Muddy Waters for 18 years; Kenny Smith certainly has something to say himself; and he has an eclectic way of saying it too; pulling various aspects of the Blues and Soul together into a glorious Gumbo that will have you dancing, smiling, crying and punching the air in equal measure; and one song especially, What In the World ticks each and every one of those boxes btw.
Scratchin’ Your Head is a smooth and accessible love song that rolls around a cool Hammond groove and a wailing harmonica; but Smith can get low down and seedy too with the slow sashay of Living Fast, and on No Need Brother Greg Guy really does make his guitar gently weep on a Soul squeezing slice of late night Southside of Chicago Blues Deluxe.
Don’t be afraid when I say that these are ‘Modern Blues Songs’, they most certainly are in every aspect; but Smith and The House Bumpers know their musical heritage so, so very well and use that history to great effect on the funklicious Puppet on a String and glorious title track Drop The Hammer, which combines Blues, Soul and a smidgen of Jazz to create something really special indeed.
The album closes on a fascinating note; and a Blue Note at that, with the instrumental Moment of Silence which lasts 5 minutes 17 here; but went by in the blink of an eye and has the spine to go on for an hour or more when played live and not a single person would ever complain.
I’m actually selecting two very different songs as joint ‘Favourites’ here; the rinky-dinky Second Hand Woman, which is 4 minutes of rolling Blues straight outta some Mississippi Juke Joint; but polished and shined until it’s fit for a concert Hall somewhere uptown; and the other is a first for me, I think. I select Favourite Songs’ for a million different reasons in the course of a year; and I don’t think I’ve ever gone for a song that combines both ‘twee’ and ‘class’ the way Hey Daddy does. Obviously it’s a ‘Love Song’ at heart; but a slick one as Kenny sings not just for, but with his three kids, Mae, Clara and Teddy who provide ace backing vocals on the chorus.
Who knew a drummer could be so sensitive, soulful and sensual in not just his singing, but most of all in his songwriting too? Kenny ‘Beedy Eyes’ Smith, is the real deal and I believe that this album has the ability to whisk him from the shadows and out him permanently in the spotlight.

https://beedyeyes.com/
Released March 15th 2019

Atomic Road Kings CLEAN UP THE BLOOD

Atomic Road Kings
Clean Up The Blood
Bigtone Records

Thrill a Minute Smouldering Blues-Noir

Had I spotted this album in a shop I doubt I’d have picked it up, as the band’s name and artwork hints at some kind of loud Rock music, doesn’t it……or is that just me?
But; I’d have made a huge, huge mistake……. as Atomic Road Kings are proud purveyors of Chicago Blues Music; and perform it with class, panache and gallons of Cool!
Opening track I’ve Got Time is slow, sensual and will send shivers down your spine as ‘Big’ John Atkinson sounds like a thunderstorm is brewing in his larynx and Eric Von Hersen makes his harmonica solos sound like they were borrowed from Old Nick; and there’s a lot more like that in every cut that follows.
While I love Chicago Blues, I’m far from an expert in the genre so I can’t actually tell you who Atomic Road Kings sound like…… but perhaps they may even have their own distinctive sound; it sure sounds like it to my cultured ears.
You can easily ‘cut a rug’ to the ballsy Have Your Way and You Got To Change or especially My Way Back Home; but these cats are at their finest when they slow things down and get a little funky.
Rumours features some staggering guitar licks from Tony Delgado and later on Ain’t For Me he makes his guitar not just gently weep, but actually sound like it’s drowning in the tears produced by ‘Big’ Jon’s wailing and Von Herzen’s heart breaking harp playing between the front two.
Another thing I’m no expert in is the gear that bands use in the studio; but it’s fair to say that the original 40’s & 50’s analog equipment that was used to record this album on somehow helps create a claustrophobic atmosphere for Atkinson’s fabulously authentic Blues songs which are all from the heart and directed at the Soul.
There is actually a song, not from his pen and that’s the ‘traditional’ Two Sided Story, which I’ve never heard before and was a contender for the RMHQ Favourite Song category right from the first time I played this album as it’s a real powerhouse that has had me nodding my head along with the bass and tapping my feet to the drumbeat each time I’ve played it.
But, the actual ‘winner’ is……… the title track Clean Up The Blood, which; if such a thing exists, is the finest and scariest Blues-Noir I’ve ever heard! Imagine if you will, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Wilson Pickett recorded a Nick Cave song for a remake of Key Largo while hopped up on mogadons! For what it’s worth, I bloody love this song.
As usual this album isn’t for everyone…… not even all Blues fans, but if you like Mean n Moody Blues singers with a Diesel powered rhythm section and a side order of razor sharp bottle-neck guitar plus a wicked Harmonica player then Atomic Road Kings are for you.

Released February 22nd 2019
https://www.facebook.com/AtomicRoadKings/

Mat Walklate SEA OF BLUE

Mat Walklate
Sea of Blues
Self-Released

Manchester’s Northern Quarter via Beale Street and Orange Street.

This album download arrived with a minimum of fuss and, it’s fair to say…… a minimal approach! Two photos, a link to a YouTube video and a Dropbox of the album…… no press release or any other info.
I don’t want anyone else to do it this way; but I was intrigued enough to reply and ask for some more info. He’s from Manchester! That was about it.
So; let the music do the talking I suppose.
Ye-gads…. opening track Could Have Been is electrifying, and shows where Mat Walkgate is coming from…… a bit of Muddy, a dash of BB, a smidgen of Booker T and a whole dollop of Little Walter the way he tries to blow out the reeds of his harmonica; and the self-penned song ain’t too shabby either.
While this all goes under the moniker of singer/harp blower Mat Walklate it’s very apparent guitarist extraordinaire Paolo Fuschi is a key player in proceedings too; supplying some excellent guitar riffs and solos throughout, as well as co-writing most of the good stuff.
As per all the greats before him Mat manages to make ‘being miserable’ sound exciting on The Sun Never Shines, which not only showcases Walkgate’s harmonica playing but Tom Attah’s dexterity on the National Steel too and the painfully beautiful So Deep In Trouble, which both sizzle and shimmy just like you need to hear when you are feeling that way too.
There’s only one ‘cover’ here and it’s a gloriously raw rendition of Rivers of Jordan that bleeds into People Get Ready which is just Walklate’s rough baritone and wailing harmonica; and even though he and his song were born and bred in Manchester; if you heard it by accident, you’d presume it could easily have been a field recording from a Baptist Church somewhere South of the Mason Dixon Line.
For my Favourite Track here; I’m going for an instrumental, with a cheeky title but a track that deserves a much wider audience than it will probably ever receive…… Playing With Myself Boogie, which finds Walklate overdubbing a variety of harmonicas on three minutes of absolute Blues Heaven that just might resurrect the Soul of Little Walter.
Now I’ve played this a couple of times, I love the fact that these guys ain’t no Retro/Covers band; they very much tread their very own, but being prepared to bravely turn left, right and proudly marching forward at the crossroads, introducing a a flute on Answer Your Phone, and giving Modest Man and Dubbed & Burning a bit of a Ska meets Egyptian Reggae feel; without ever sounding out of step with Walklate’s Blues and Soul spine.

Released November 2018
http://www.matwalklate.co.uk/mat-paulo.html


John Fusco & The X-Road Riders

John Fusco & The X-Road Riders
Self-Titled
Checkerboard Lounge Recordings

It Comes From The Swamps and Ends Up In the Heart and Soul of Chicago!

The album cover and band name meant nothing to me when this arrived a couple of weeks ago; but the ‘stable’ it came from is full of thoroughbreds and rarely, if ever lets me down……then I spotted the names Cody and Luther Dickinson! As I played the album I skimmed through the Press Release to see that John Fusco is not just a singer and musician, but an Award winning filmmaker to boot; his last film was the Woody Harrelson/Kevin Costner movie The Highwaymen but his first screenplay was for the bio-pic Crossroads way back in 1986, so whatever this is, it’s got to be worth a listen.
Opening track Rolling Thunder is some multi-layered and intense Blues Rock of the ilk we’d normally associate with Stevie Ray Vaughan, but without the hysterical guitar solos and a singer with a voice so rich you’d swear his larynx was gold coated.
Everything here, bar their exquisite and original reworking of Crossroad Blues which closes things in glorious fashion with Luther Dickinson supplying some sublime slide guitar and a Memphis Rapper called Al Kapone adding a verse and not sounding even a little bit out of place, is from Fusco’s pen and vivid imagination.
If this is meant to be a hobby or side project; God knows what Fusco and Cody Dickinson would create if this was their day job!
They make the joint swing like crazy on Poutine with Fusco sounding sassy as anything and Cody playing the part of his ‘wing-man’ with consummate ease on geetar behind him.
The duo (and friends) are even cooler still when they slow things down a’la The Allmans on A Stones Throw and especially Hello, Highway which features Dickinson’s sizzling guitar again as Fusco shows us his Leon Russell side not just with his grizzly vocals, but on Hammond Organ too.
I don’t think I’m getting the best from this music either; as it’s a cold and wet February night as I type……. give it another three or four months and Can’t Have Your Cake and the diamond of a song Boogie on the Bayou will really come alive for me, as the sun bakes the back garden.
There’s not a bad song here, with a couple of genuine crackers tucked away in the shadows; Once I Pay This Truck Off conjures up all kinds of romantic imagery for a poor boy from Northern England and I Got Soul has all the hallmarks of the last song of the night jam; and in another lifetime would be covered by Rod Stewart and make the writer a small fortune.
But one song in particular has caught not just my attention, but my heart too……… Track #2 Drink Takes The Man; at first it’s a cool Blues groove but sooner or later the song, and especially the chorus will catch your ear and you will know someone close to you that it could be about. Obviously a very personal story to John Fusco (or he has one helluva imagination!) and to me; it’s a ‘once in a lifetime’ song for a songwriter. 10/10
With the Delta and for good measure, Chicago at its Roots this album by John and Cody takes us on a right royal roller-coaster ride around the back-roads and highways of Bluesville, before tipping us out on the side of the road bruised, battered, dusty, sweaty and dying for more….. lots more.

Released February 11th 2019
https://www.facebook.com/XRoadRiders/

Willie Farmer THE MAN FROM THE HILL

Willie Farmer
The Man From The Hill
Big Legal Mess

Cool, Raw and Truly Authentic Blues From Duck Hill MS.

I’m sorry in advance, but this guy’s name…… Willie Farmer made me giggle like a pre-pubescent teenager; ‘Willie’ Farmer? Geddit? Never mind.
Farmer is one of those guys that just has The Blues running through his veins, buying his first guitar out of the proceeds from picking cotton; yet has just kept his singing and mean guitar playing as a bit of a hobby for the last 40 years or so, as he’s kept a roof over the family’s heads by owning his own auto-repair shop in Duck Hill MS. If we delve a bit deeper his Dad occasionally played harmonica for RMHQ Favourite Leo ‘Bud’ Welch and his Uncle ran a Juke Joint before getting killed in a dispute ‘over a woman’.
There’s a song in there somewhere.
Willie only recorded his debut album I’m Coming Back Home three years ago; and now the follow up The Man From The Hill, is getting a much wider distribution and promotion via the great Big Legal Mess record label.
OooooohhhhhhEEEEEE the rumbling guitar that introduces first song I Feel Good sent a shiver down my spine; and when Farmer’s worn and tattered voice enters the fray I knew I was listening to something really special indeed …….. authentic and Raw Blues that is intended to refresh both the heart and the soul.
It’s pretty apparent early on that our man has listened to a lot of different playing styles over the years as he’s honed his very own, distinctive playing and singing style that incorporates a bit of everything from Big Bill Broonzy and Muddy through to BB, Freddie and Albert Collins too, and even a bit of righteous Johnny Winter in Fistful of Dollars for good measure!
This album is primarily about his songs stories; and what songs they are too……. there’s a glorious Gospel inspired At The Meeting, but Break Bad and Daddy Was Right are from the downright low down and mean mistreated dirty end of the Blues spectrum; and then he makes I Am The Lightning and Shake Baby Shake simply sizzle with sexual tension!
This guy has a foot in every camp and performs each and every one with class and precision too.
Then of course there is the title track The Man From The Hill, which is a case of ‘keeping the best for last’ and ticks every box I have when it comes to loving Blues Music; a cool story sung by a cracking singer and more than enough fiery and funky guitar playing to make my heart skip a beat!
Willie Farmer hopes that the release of this album means he can finally ‘give up the day job’ and make a living from music……. I hope so too; as he is the Real Deal and certainly has the talent and good taste to bring joy to the masses all over the Western World.

Released March 1st 2019
https://biglegalmessrecords.com/products/the-man-from-the-hill

Watermelon Slim CHURCH OF THE BLUES

Watermelon Slim
Church of the Blues
Northern Blues

Chicago Blues is Alive and Well and In Safe Hands.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned this album to a mate, who could go on Mastermind and choose The Blues as his Specialist Subject; and his non-plussed response was….. “Never heard of him.” The conversation ended there and then.
Possibly more than any other genre, Blues Fans live in the past and refuse to admit anything remotely interesting has been recorded since 1979 turned into 1980!
As I prove most months……how very, very wrong they are!
This is 69 year old Slim’s 13th album, with the first being released in 1973 (the follow up game 29 years later….hahahaha.) and I guess not a lot has changed in the intervening years, as he certainly has a golden handle on the Classic Chicago sound, of which a few glorious covers litter this album in-between his own red hot songs.
Church of the Blues is an apt title; especially as the first song is titled St Peter’s Ledger, a cover that I’d never heard of but sets the seal here quite perfectly; as Slim sounds like a bit of a rascal as he tries to wangle his way past the Pearly Gates; and boy oh boy can he make his electric slide guitar sizzle and squeal!
There’s a fascinating mix of covers here with three songs that blew me away when I first heard them as a teenager; albeit not by the originators. I first heard Smokestack Lightning on 5 Live Yardbirds; and Watermelon Slim’s take is more of a shuffle than that or any of Howlin’ Wolf’s recordings.
The dust is blown right off Muddy’s Gypsy Woman by Slim’s wailin’ harmonica and soul shaking voice; then on Highway 61 Blues; as Johnny Winter once said about something entirely different; “Now we’re gonna get low down and dirty,” which Slim does like any of the greats of old did, ‘back in the day’.
Alongside the Gene Barge song Me and My Woman and Allen Toussaint’s Get Out of My Life; the cover versions are really just appetisers for Watermelon Slim’s own songs; with Holler #4 and Mini Wiconi (The Water Song) and That Ole 1-4-5 showing what a great and divergent talent this guy is.
Slim’s other songs swing, shimmy and make the sweat run down your back (even in January) with the ultra-cool Post-Modern Blues, the sinister and self-depreciating Halloween Mama and the dancetastic yet politically astute Blues For My Nation proving that The Blues can still be both Classic AND Contemporary, without sounding dusty or Heavy, Heavy, Heavy.
Choosing a Favourite Track wasn’t as hard as you’d imagine; as it’s another song that helped shape my musical tastes when I first heard Rory Gallagher sing it acoustically on the OGWT, and subsequently when he put blisters on the verses when played with the band on Irish Tour ’74; but today Watermelon Slim gives it an exciting shimmy and a swagger that make it sound like it was recorded round about midnight in a Mississippi Roadhouse back in the late 1950’s. Damn! This is what the Blues sounds like for me.
I doubt I will ever see Watermelon Slim play these songs live; which is a shame, but the way he plays and sings shows that the Blues is Alive and Well and in safe hands.

Released January 25th 2019
https://watermelonslim.com/

 

Paul Oscher COOL CAT

paul oscher t

Paul Oscher
COOL CAT
Blues Fidelity

The Title Says It All!

In a week when I’ve nearly caught up with my backlog of albums to review I happened upon this one in the box of tricks. Although from my ‘secret source’ in the US of A, who has never let me down in the last 12 months it was actually the Blue Note style album cover that first caught my eye, and when I flipped it over and saw the song titles I thought it might be worth a spin.
Ooh, ooh and thrice OOH!
The first song, Money Makin’ Woman simply sizzles like breakfast bacon, the way it attacks all of your senses at once; and of course makes you salivate at the prospect of what else is to come. A tasty treat it is too with Oscher’s leathery voice sounding like it’s coming from a man with a twinkle in his eye, and his red hot guitar licks plus a couple of swinging sax’s in the background take us back to some late night dive, two alleys back from Bourbon Street, where only the ne’er do wells dare drink.
Next up Oscher slows things down to a late night stroll with Blues and Trouble, and not for the last time on this album he does things with his electric guitar that are still illegal in four states!
Now you  are hooked; I can let you into a secret…….Paul Oscher played in Muddy Water’s band from 67 through 76; and even lived in his basement! That’s how good he is.
For a native of LA who has been settled in Austin for a long while; there’s a cool Chicago vibe going on here, with Work That Stuff and Dirty Dealin’ Mama being the type of Blues I’ve dreamt about re-discovering for years now; Oscher blowing a mean ole mouth-harp on the former and on the latter I can only imagine that Miss Lavelle White sings it with one hand on her hip and the other waving in the air as she hisses and purrs the sassy lyrics like a woman who has been wronged; very wronged more than once in her life and gets her mean revenge on Oscher who plays guitar and piano with as much guilt as he can muster.
When I tell you that there’s a poem here; Mississippi Poem don’t despair as it’s a precursor to the Talking Blues, Ain’t That a Man (Dedicated to James Cotton) and the pairing is quite exquisite!
Then; there’s also a Jazz instrumental, On The Edge, and, in this setting it proves that there’s only a sliver of difference between the Blues and Jazz.
Oscher pays homage to Muddy Waters with a cool mid-tempo arrangement of Rollin’ and Tumblin’ and if I’m honest, it was an early contender for the Favourite Track title; but that has gone to, not just one song but two, or is it three….or sort of?
The title track Cool Cat makes it’s first appearance with Paul giving a heartfelt and amusing monologue explaining who (or what) Cool Cat was; and it not just made me smile each time I’ve heard it…… but giggle a couple of times too. This is followed by a delightful 4 minute instrumental with Oscher at the piano and nodding in the direction of Booker T and the MG’s. It’s so good that if I still had my radio show I would certainly incorporate it into an intro tune.
Then Cool Cat makes another, but this time epic appearance at the end with 9 and a half minute full on Rhythm and Blues whig out, with Miss Lisa Leuschner sexily purring the words; a la Eartha Kitt in her Catwoman guise “Cool Cat…..Cool Cat” over the end credits; and I can’t think of a better way to close such a cool, classy and occasionally sexy album like this.

Released October 19th 2018
https://www.pauloscher.com/

Colin James MILES TO GO

COLIN_JAMES v

Colin James
MILES TO GO
True North Records

The Perfect Accompaniment After Midnight.

My ‘relationship’ with Colin James is quite limited; as I only ‘discovered’ him in 2016 when he supported Beth Hart; and my initial reaction was “Wow! This kid will go far!” Which was funny; as by then he was already turned 50, had released 15 albums and won numerous Awards in his native Canada!
Then, a week later I received a copy of his Blue Highways album and straight off realised why he already had a successful career on the other side of the Atlantic – not only can he play the electric guitar as well as the best of them, he has a wonderful singing voice too.
MILES TO GO is not just the follow up to that career defining ‘covers album’ but a sequel as James delves even deeper into his record collection; putting his own distinctive stamp on 10 Classic (and/or occasionally rare) Blues standards while seamlessly sliding in two of his own; written especially for the project.
I wasn’t aux fait with the Otis Grand tune One More Mile before having my breath taken away by James’ scintillating version; which I guess pays homage to the original with a blues-wailing harmonica; groovy organ and swinging horn section in the background; but first and foremost James sounds like he ‘believes’ every single word he is singing as he oozes class on his electric guitar.
Some songs here I did know; but mostly the songs are brand new to me and even Need Your Love So Bad and See That My Grave Is Kept Clean are virtually unrecognisable in the way Colin James has deconstructed them and made them both sound very contemporary indeed; especially the former.
James’ own songs, the soulful I Will Remain and the unrequited-Love Song 40 Light Years with it’s uber-cool chorus and Steve Marriner’s superb harmonica solos both fit in extraordinarily well; and either could easily have come from Muddy or maybe John Mayall’s back catalogue if you didn’t know any better.
James and gang manage the near impossible here; creating a timeless Blues album that is also fresh, exciting and very contemporary with Still a Fool coming out of Chess Studios in 1951, but now evoking memories of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and also bits of Joe Bonamassa’s recent works; and it’s a similar feel to Howlin’ Wolf’s Ooh Baby Hold Me; which now sounds like the best song Eric Clapton never recorded in the 70’s!
This is one of those albums when you can close your eyes and stick a pin into the cover to find your Favourite Track; as yesterday it was going to be the funky foot-stomper Soul of a Man, but tonight I’m going for Black Night; no not the Deep Purple song! But something from 1950, originally by someone called Charles Brown and subsequently covered by Buddy Guy and Joe Bonamassa, but whatever, James turns it into the type of late night Blues where you come home from work, loosen the tie, pour something long, cold and strong and kick back and wallow in the lush magic coming from the speakers in a darkened room.
Obviously it’s a case of ‘each to their own’ when it comes to the Blues; and I personally grew out of interminable and loud for the sake of being loud guitar solos a quarter of a century ago; so I absolutely love this type of smooth and grown up Blues performed by a singer-guitarist and assorted high-quality musicians who appreciate the songs and music as much as the end recipient, the listener will do as well.

Released UK November 9th 2018
Released North America 21st September 2018

https://www.colinjames.com/