316

Victor Nesrallah: Based in Blues

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
While Ottawa, Canada may not seem the most fertile place for a blues community, the city has produced its share of fine players, including Tony D and Sue Foley. Its annual blues festival is considered, next to Chicago's, to be North America's premier blues event, with tens of thousands of fans crowding to see a wide range of artists. And with clubs like The Rainbow, it's possible to catch local acts any day of the week.

Victor Nesrallah has always had his fingers in a lot of pies, as evidenced by the rock-inflected Always Dreaming (Free Flying Music, 1994) and Blood From the Stone (Free Flying Music, 1999)—a well-received world music album blending his Lebanese roots with a personal style gained through 25 years of experience as a singer/songwriter. But he's always been informed by the blues—sometimes directly, elsewhere in more subtle ways.

So it was perhaps inevitable that Nesrallah would one day pay homage to the blues artists who have influenced him since his earliest days, including Taj Mahal, Willie Dixon, and Luther Allison. Based in Blues is an all-acoustic affair, recorded in his home studio in downtown Ottawa with a minimum of fuss. Throughout these eleven self- penned songs, Nesrallah demonstrates that the blues roots run deep, despite the variety displayed throughout. Mixing the topical with more traditional themes like "love's done me wrong, Nesrallah's album has a fresh, rootsy vibe that makes for an engaging listen.

"The Wannabe Club opens up with a Bo Diddley rock beat carried by one guitar, over which Nesrallah layers two dobro tracks. He's always possessed an attractive tenor, with a relaxed delivery and a strong range; here he adds the slightest hint of rasp to lend additional authenticity. "Fear is Everywhere is a more straightforward blues which addresses the state of fear that's become endemic in the public's consciousness.

With only a couple of acoustic guitars and hand percussion, "The Shape I'm In rocks along insistently. The majority of the album explores a variety of drop-D tunings, giving Nesrallah's basic rhythm track depth and fullness. He's no virtuoso, but he has an instinctive ability to choose the right notes at the right time, making his slide work on dobro tasteful and understated. Eschewing overdubbing of any kind, "Jump In is the most reverential blues piece on the disc—one acoustic guitar, one voice—and in its stark simplicity, the most effective track.

Keith Snider—another local musician who shares a weekly duo gig with Nesrallah playing fiddle, mandolin, and banjo—is heard on the haunting minor blues "You Made a Fool Outta Me. Like Nesrallah, his accompaniment—in this case on banjo—is more about creating a feeling than suggesting any kind of formidable ability, although he's a fine player.

While Nesrallah's laid-back style adapts easily to everything from folk to world music and more, Based in Blues may be the most direct and honest record he's released to date. For fans of rootsy acoustic blues, Based in Blues is just what the doctor ordered.

Track Listing: The Wannabe Club; Fear is Everywhere; The Shape I'm In; Hard Time Blues; Trouble on My Mind; Jump In; You Made a Fool Outta Me; Think for Yourself; The Resurrection; Memories of a Boy; Forgive and Forget.

Personnel: Victor Nesrallah: guitars, vocals, percussion; Keith Snider: banjo (7).

Title: Based in Blues | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Free Flying Music

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read This Should Be Fun Album Reviews
This Should Be Fun
By David A. Orthmann
April 20, 2019
Read Transoceanico Album Reviews
Transoceanico
By Patrick Burnette
April 20, 2019
Read Pete Seeger: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection Album Reviews
Pete Seeger: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection
By Jakob Baekgaard
April 20, 2019
Read Live in Newcastle, December 8, 1972 Album Reviews
Live in Newcastle, December 8, 1972
By John Kelman
April 19, 2019
Read HUJE 2018 Album Reviews
HUJE 2018
By Jack Bowers
April 19, 2019
Read Farallon Album Reviews
Farallon
By Jerome Wilson
April 19, 2019
Read Burning Meditation Album Reviews
Burning Meditation
By John Sharpe
April 18, 2019