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With Exile on Blues Street, Randy Labbe and Telarc Blues did not merely hit a home run, but a grand slam to win the World Series by one in the bottom of the ninth. Where The Blues White Album was a troublesome fit and The Blues on Blonde on Blonde was a near fit, Exile fits like a glove.
It begs the question: were the Rolling Stones the purveyors of New Blues, or is the music so enduring that it never lost its core regardless of how it was treated? Or was the vision of the Rolling Stones so perfect on Exile on Main Street – as a reinterpretation of the rural and urban vernacular – that the current generation of bluesmen could step right in and pick up where the Stones left off? The answer: who cares? This is a fun romp through the hallowed basement of a French Castle circa 1972, where the greatest rock and roll band in the world would while away their time in exile.
Labbe ensures consistency and continuity by employing the same rhythm section throughout the session, namely Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble: bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton. Add to the band guitarist Brian Stoltz, veteran of previous of Telarc's blues adventures, and the foundation is complete. So, how do the songs come off? Highlights below...
"Ventilator Blues" - Lucky Peterson delivers a molten version, supplying sticky slide guitar and soupy, full-bodied organ. This is one of the strongest covers on the recording.
"All Down The Line" - Christine Ohlman belts out the '70s Stones concert staple with the tasty tenor compliments of Ryan Zoidis. Stoltz's guitar is virile and potent.
"Sweet Virginia" - This is the piece de resistance of the recording. Jeff Lang's acoustic slide guitar expresses so many ideas in such a short amount of time that the song requires several listens to appreciate fully his sheer artisanship. His voice is desperate and dense. He doubles electric and acoustic slide work, just like the Stones on Mississippi Fred McDowall's "You Got To Move."
"Tumblin' Dice" - Andrea Re sings with conviction and Colin James provides the requisite slide guitar to this, the greatest Stones song. Great cover, but do not throw away Linda Rhonstadt's version of the same.
"Shake Your Hips" - Tab Benoit teases out all that is John Lee Hooker from this one- chord workout. He has just the voice also.
"Shine A Light" - Joe Louis Walker picks the songs perfect for him in these series. He sings with more soul and his guitar is a blues beacon. He transforms this gospel-tinged piece into a electric exorcism.
What? No "Turd on the Run"? We are blessed sometimes... and this is one of those times. Even the low points are high points.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.