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Up From The Roots: Cary Morin, Colin James, Joanne Shaw Taylor & Chris Youlden

Doug Collette By

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Blues musicians invariably cover traditional genre material because it connects them with the wellspring of emotion at the heart of this music and illustrates the major influences on their personal style. Sometimes these gestures are more obvious than others, but as are those of Cary Morin's on his latest album, they can bespeak bold courage as much as humble homage. On occasion, as with Joanne Shaw-Taylor's on her fifth album, such obeisance only hints at the influences at work, while in the case of Colin James' covers on his latest, the tributes are fodder to fuel his work on the originals that otherwise populate the record. Any old way such artists choose, their righteous honoring of the art and its artists further substantiate the durability of the genre.

Cary Morin
When I Rise
Maple Street Music
2018

The acoustic work of Cary Morin's here has its roots beyond his nimble take on Duane Allman's only known original composition, "Little Martha,"-from The Allman Brothers Band's seminal Eat A Peach (Capricorn, 1972)-or the cover of the Grateful Dead's "Dire Wolf," off , (Warner Bros., 1970) virtually unrecognizable as it appears on this sixth album of this Crow tribal member. Produced by Kim Stone, Celeste Di Iorio and Jason Larson, the dozen tracks contrast the work of complements of musicians in addition to the artist himself, who's almost as often fully solo, as on his ghostly invocation of his muse on "When I Rise;" additional accompanists as they appear on the electrified "Jug In The Water," offer proof positive the effortless means by which Morin inhabits his originals (all but the aforementioned two here) and ably collaborates, rendering a record as haunting and comforting, but most of all true to its roots.

Colin James
Miles To Go
Stony Plain Records
2018

As accessible in its own way as Cary Morin's record, this Canadian bluesman's album rocks from the very start of its titlesong before he moves through nine well-chosen covers by the likes of Chester "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett and Mckinley "Muddy Waters" Morganfield. Along the way to a savvy conclusion in the form of an acoustic reworking of the very song with which he began, harmonica horns and keyboards complement the vocals of James, in their own way as fluent as his guitar playing. If it all sounds a bit too facile at times, it's because James is a stylist, not an innovator, but the blues as a genre that benefits by the likes of such work: it functions as a benchmark for fans to reset their tastes and steady ground for novices to establish their own preferences. Both demographics could hardly find a more stable foundation than Miles To Go.

Joanne Shaw-Taylor
Wild
Silvertone
2018

Joanne Shaw Taylor's obeisance to roots on her 2016 LP arrives as a gospel-inflected cover of George Gershwin's "Summertime." But the horn-laden "My Heart's Got A Mind of Its Own" suggests even more stylistic diversity at the woman's command as this 'girl with the big voice from the Black Country' of Britain follows in the studio footsteps of other contemporary devotees of the genre (including Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart), recording under the aegis of producer Kevin "Caveman" Shirley in Nashville. Shaw Taylor can sound a bit too constrained here, even on up-tempo material like "Get You Back," but the piano-dominated "No Reason to Stay" indicates the range of nuance she can maintain with her guitar and her voice. Beginning with this reissue of her fifth record, a recently-signed business agreement relaunching the Silvertone label should provide distribution of this contemporary blues siren's music commensurate with her passion.

Chris Youlden
Closing Time
The Last Record Co.
2018

In his stint with Savoy Brown from 1967 to 1970, Chris Youlden helped uncover the treasure trove of the blues for audiences in Great Britain and beyond, but after a brief solo career, he has rarely performed. Luckily, eighteen previously-unreleased tracks, recorded at various ad hoc sessions in 1987 and 1991, have survived to comprise this stylish CD package. Serving to illustrate not only the vocalist/songwriter's talent, but also that of his sympathetic accompanists, an expansive range of covers radiate a panache no doubt honed in the live club performances that predated these recordings (the clarity of sound belies the informality of the sessions as described with much affection in the booklet's liner notes). There's a wholly justified braggadocio in takes like "Trickbag," but the ensemble also displays the sure grasp of dynamism at its heart during Mose Allison's "Fool's Paradise:" hear that bittersweet harp in particular.

Tracks and Personnel

When I Rise

Tracks: When I rise; Let Me Hear the Music; Sometimes; Dire Wolf; My Memories of You; Jug in the Water; Devoted One; Little Martha/The Last Pint; Lay Baby Lay; Carmela Marie; We Used To Be; Jugi In The Water Acoustic.

Personnel: Cary Morin: guitars, pedal steel guitar, vocals; Paul Benjaman: electric guitar; Andy Weyl: piano; Celeste Di Iorio: vocals; Lionel Young: violin; Jason Larson: vocals, piano, bass guitar; Dexter Payne: clarinet and harmonica; Kim Stone: acoustic and electric bass; Steve Amedée:drums, percussion; Jay Forrest: drums, percussion;

Miles To Go

Tracks: One More Mile; Still a Fool; Dig Myself a Hole; I Will Remain; 40 Light Years; Ooh Baby Hold Me; Black Night; Soul of a Man; See That My Grave is Kept Clean; I Need Your Love So Bad; Tears Came Rolling Down; One More Mile (Acoustic).

Personnel: Colin James: vocals, guitar; Chris Caddell: rhythm guitar; Jesse O'Brien: Wurlitzer; Simon Kendall: Hammond organ; Chris Gestrin: piano; Colin Nairne: synthesizer; Steve Marriner: harmonica; Steve Hilliam: tenor saxophone; Jerry Cook: baritone saxophone; Rod Murray: trombone; The Soujourners: backing vocals; Colleen Rennison: backing vocals; Steve Pelletier: bass; Geoff Hicks: drums, percussion.

Wild

Tracks: Dyin' To Know; Ready To Roll; Get You Back; No Reason To Stay; Wild Is The Wind; Wanna Be My Lover; I'm In Chains; I Wish I Could Wish You Back; My Heart's Got A Mind Of Its Own; Nothin' To Lose; Summertime.

Personnel: Joanne Shaw Taylor: vocals, guitar; Rob McNelly: guitar; Steve Nathan: keyboards; Michael Rhodes: bass; Greg Morrow: drums; Paulie Cerra: saxophone; Lee Thornburg: trumpet and horn arrangements.

Closing Time Tracks: Sugar Coated Love; Number Nine Train; I Wanna Stay Alive; Trickbag; Fool's Paradise; Tell Me What You're Gonna Do; Nervous Breakdown; Roll With My Baby; Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight; How Deep Is the Well; In the Middle of the Night; Let's Talk About Us Sweet Love On My Mind; Roll with My Baby; Sugar Coated Love; I Wanna Stay Live.

Personnel: Chris Youlden: vocals; Dave Briggs: guitar; Will Stallibrass: guitar, harmonica; Geraint Watkins: piano, organ; Paul Riley: bass; Malcolm Mills: drums.

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