might not be quite as highly regarded in the contemporary blues milieu as "The Godfather of British Blues," John Mayall
, but the former's forty-first album under the Savoy Brown
monicker suggests he ought to be. As his profile has risen over the last five years, commensurate with his increased activity on the road and in the studio, this once and future (perpetual?) leader of the seminal band has come to be the definition of dignity and discipline and here he writes, sings, plays and records with a clarity and purpose, he fully justifies why Ain't Done Yet
is so appropriate a title.
Conversely, this opener belies its name. On "All Gone Wrong," Simmonds' muscular rhythm guitar fires up his own scathing electric leads as well as the inexorable chugging generated through the mutual bond of bassist Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnet Grimm (both have played with him for over a decade now). And even as acoustic bottleneck distinguishes "Rocking in Louisiana," it's of a piece with that cut at the opposite end of the album: the distinctive playing Kim's now been honing for over fifty years is often startling as it moves from the raw to the sonorous, then back again (and as here, at times surprisingly blends into a mottled mix of the two tones).
This is modern blues as high art, not unlike the svelte and bittersweet fills in "Devil's Highway." A flashback to the halcyon days of 1968 British blues, it's no coincidence it's the longest cut here, running a little over six minutes, within which Simmonds' gruff vocal phrasing functions as an artful counterpoint to the sinuous interweaving of his fretboard lines. The layering of acoustic and electric textures on"River On The Rise" is similarly sleek: it hardly disparages Savoy Brown to say such rootsy numbers point directly to their source, in this case the Mississippi Delta blues of early Muddy Waters
Quite the contrary, in fact, as Kim Simmonds has always acknowledged and paid proper homage to his influences. On the aforementioned latter cut, tacit tribute arrives in the form of slithering slide that snakes around the rippling motion of the rhythm section. Savoy Brown still honorably maintains the tradition of the genre, especially when peeling arrangements down to the twelve-bar basics as on the ominous "Borrowed Time;" the very subject of this song, the shadow of mortality, is a reliable theme of the blues. In practical terms too, the fast flash of harmonica on "Jaguar Car" insures Simmonds and company touch all the hallmarks of style without any hint of a paint-by-numbers approach.
Still, it's no less a legitimate expression than the liberating, fleet shuffle of this title song, the very designation of which hints at the careful thought Kim Simmonds is applying to his work these days. He and his accompanists are hardly just grinding it out, but instead imbuing new compositions with fresh ingenuity, as in the subtle hint of Latin swing and sway called "Feel Like A Gypsy." And as produced by the bandleader himself and engineered in its entirety by Ben Elliott at Showplace Studios in Dover, NJ., the sequence of tracks is as logical as the audio is uncluttered and clear.
Permeating Ain't Done Yet
, both these virtues are laudable manifestations of continued enthusiasm as much as reliable experience. As is the confidence required to conclude this album with the haunting instrumental "Crying Guitar," especially as it follows immediately upon the heels of the noisy "Soho Girl." Younger bluesmen including Gary Clark, Jr.
, Matt Schofield
and Davy Knowles
would do well to sound as vigorous and inspired as Kim Simmonds when they reach the half-century mark of their respective careers.
All Gone Wrong; Devil’s Highway; River On The Rise; Borrowed Time; Ain’t Done Yet; Feel Like A Gypsy; Jaguar Car; Rocking in Louisiana; Soho Girl; Crying Guitar.
Kim Simmonds: vocals, harmonica.