Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

430

John Mayall: Tough

Doug Collette By

Sign in to view read count
John Mayall looks alternately dignified and defiant in the photos that adorn Tough. The music, however, is permeated with a consistent resolve. Displaying his usual emotionalism, the Godfather of British Blues offers an album largely comprised of covers recorded with an almost entirely new band.

The wisdom of his concept(s) becomes apparent on the very first track, "Nothing to Do with Love." This atmospheric number features not just the familiar wail of Mayall's harmonica, but the lead guitar of Rocky Athas—the latest in a string of guitar prodigies Mayall has discovered over the years. The Texas native makes a case for himself on "Playing with a Losing Hand" and throughout the disc, as an axeman worth watching.

Keyboardist Tom Canning is the lone holdover from the various most recent incarnations of Bluesbreakers, and his electric organ swoops its way over the tighten-up funk rhythm of "Just What You're Looking For," which is right where the surety of the Greg Rzab (bass) Jay Davenport (drums) rhythm section begins to impress. Mayall's self-production doesn't allow anything fancy, but by collaborating with engineer Michael Aarvold to create such a clean resonant mix, he further fosters the profile of the band in a most pragmatic sense: they can always be heard, clearly individually and collectively.

John Mayall has a tendency to succumb to the trite lyric when he tries too hard to make a point, with "An Eye for An Eye" a case in point. But the easygoing shuffle of the quintet is sufficiently winning to compensate: the musicianship from Athas and Mayall himself on piano is particularly tasty. As he and his comrades inject what is so often a stolid progression with lighthearted, authentic joy, the music also contrasts the acoustic guitars at the heart of the following track; "How Far Down," sounds even more ominous in this juxtaposition, as Mayall's vocal is particularly pointed in tone.

As befits its title, Tough is one of the more hard-rocking efforts Mayall's released in recent years. "Train to My Heart," which features more bristling lead work from Athas, reinforces that impression, as does the twelve-bar blues that follows; on "Slow Train to Nowhere," the electric guitar leads alternate with piano and organ fills to create as genuine an expression of Mayall's vulnerability as anything on the album.

It's one of three self-composed piece on this nearly hour-long CD. In its debt to The Rolling Stones, among others, "That Good Old Rockin' Blues" might sound precious in the hands of a musician not so deeply schooled in the genre as this man. Yet any bluesman worth his salt would be proud to write and perform the ghostly current events story of "Tough Times Ahead," especially fronting a band as self-assured as this.

Track Listing: Nothing To Do With Love; Just What You're Looking For; Playing With A Losing Hand; An Eye For An Eye; How Far Down; Train To My Heart; Slow Train To Nowhere; Number's Down; That Good Old Rockin' Blues; Tough Times Ahead; The Sum Of Something.

Personnel: John Mayall: keyboards, organ, harmonica, guitar, vocals; Tom Canning: organ, piano; Rocky Athas: guitar; Greg Rzab: bass guitar; Jay Davenport: drums.

Title: Tough | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Eagle Records

Tags

Watch

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.

Album Reviews
SoCal Jazz
Extended Analysis
Live Reviews
Extended Analysis
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Extended Analysis
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Nobody Told Me

Nobody Told Me

Forty Below Records
2019

buy
John Mayall's Bluesbreakers: Live in 1967

John Mayall's...

Forty Below Records
2015

buy
John Mayall: A Special Life

John Mayall: A...

Forty Below Records
2014

buy
Live in London

Live in London

Self Produced
2011

buy
Tough

Tough

Eagle Records
2009

buy
Essentially John Mayall

Essentially John...

Eagle Records
2007

buy

Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
Jun18Tue
John Mayall
Aladdin Theater
Portland, OR
Jun20Thu
John Mayall
Tower Theatre
Bend, OR
Jun22Sat
John Mayall
Rio Theatre
Santa Cruz, CA
Jun23Sun
John Mayall
Yoshi's Oakland
Oakland, CA
$39
Jun25Tue
John Mayall
Crest Theatre
Sacramento, CA
Jul26Fri
John Mayall, Carolyn Wonderland
The Token Lounge
Westland, MI
Jul30Tue
John Mayall
Shank Hall
Milwaukee, WI

Related Articles

Read Ain't Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You Album Reviews
Ain't Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You
By Dan McClenaghan
May 24, 2019
Read Theia Album Reviews
Theia
By Jim Worsley
May 24, 2019
Read Day to Day Album Reviews
Day to Day
By Paul Naser
May 24, 2019
Read Nexus Album Reviews
Nexus
By Jakob Baekgaard
May 23, 2019
Read The Second Coming Album Reviews
The Second Coming
By Daniel Barbiero
May 23, 2019
Read Luminária Album Reviews
Luminária
By John Sharpe
May 23, 2019