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Blues Deluxe

Winter 2022

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Blues Deluxe is a regular column comprised of pithy takes on recent blues and roots-music releases of note, spotlighting titles in those genres that might otherwise go unnoticed under the cultural radar.

The Ronnie Wood Band
Mr. Luck: A Tribute to Jimmy Reed Live at the Royal Albert Hall
BMG
2021

Never at a loss for things to do between his stints working with the The Rolling Stones, guitarist/songwriter Ronnie Wood's become quite the bandleader over the years. Having released and toured behind seven studio albums under his own name, Woody has in recent years also done authentic and affectionate tributes to his chief musical influences, first in his homage to Chuck Berry—2019's Mad Lad: A Live Tribute—and now with Live at the Royal Albert Hall, one to Jimmy Reed. Like its predecessor, Mr. Luck carries no overt displays of ego from these musicians, either in the form of overly-extended solos or other grandstanding. No doubt that accounts for a relaxed ease of delivery that puts the songs on exhibit rather than the personalities involved—with recording engineer expert Bob Clearmountain involved to master, it's no wonder all contributors, including (but not limited to the famous guitarists) Mick Taylor, Bobby Womack and Paul Weller, have their moments preserved for posterity with undeniable clarity.

Joanne Shaw Taylor
The Blues Album
KTBA Records
2021

Redundant as the title of Joanne Shaw Taylor's tenth LP may sound, the designation corresponds to the authenticity of the music. Spunky horns and emotive background vocals pepper the arrangements on a selection of keen cover choices through which the British blueswoman consistently communicates the range of emotions at the heart of the genre. It's a tribute to Shaw Taylor's personal and musical maturity—she is as credible whether savoring the sweet desire within Otis Rush's "Keep On Lovin' Me" or exorcising pain through Albert King's "Can't You See What You're Doing to Me." Whether co-producer (with Josh Smith) Joe Bonamassa furthers the effect or simply stays out of the way matters less than the palpable abandon the distaff vocalist/guitarist and her accompanists (including one-time Stevie Ray Vaughan keyboardist Reese Wynans) exhibit on cuts including "Stop Messin' 'Round," where the intensity reaches a fever pitch on both vocals and guitar before the cut is over, thereby rendering it a microcosm of the of the whole record.

Sue Foley
Pinky's Blues
Stony Plain Records
2021

Sue Foley may well be the most quietly audacious blues player around. She begins her sixteenth recording, Pinky's Blues, with a pointed and purposeful reading of the titlesong, thereby setting the stage for an exhibition of fervent writing, playing, and singing in the company of such esteemed personages as Texas icon Jimmie Vaughan (on the sonic maelstrom that is "Hurricane Girl,") and former SRV drummer Chris 'Whipper' Layton. Whether moving at a quick clip through "Dallas Man" or luxuriating in the stealthy slow blues of "Say It's Not So," it's all the Canadian woman's show—Foley's voice purrs as her guitar playing sears, no matter where these dozen tracks fall in the dynamic range. And none go on too long, either for the sake of vocal histrionics or self-indulgent soloing—the arrangements are as concise as the musicianship is disciplined. Lone Star State stalwart keyboardist/vocalist Mike Flanigan produced this recording to pithy, lively effect all around, so it's a bonafide keeper.

Popa Chubby
Emotional Gangster
Dixie Frog Records
2022

Produced, recorded and mixed by Popa Chubby (aka Ted Horowitz) at Chubbyland, his upstate New York music compound, the redoubtable modern bluesman plays it all here, with only Jason Ricci blowing harmonica hard on "New Way of Walking" and "Save The Best For Last." Still, these exceptions blend seamlessly into what is otherwise a true solo album where blues standards such as Willie Dixon's "Hoochie Cootchie Man" and Elmore James' "Dust My Broom" become integrated with Chubby originals like "Doing OK" and "Fly Away." In contrast to the proliferation of blues wannabes, Chubby displays no self-consciousness on cuts like "Equal Opportunity" and "Why You Wanna Make War." Instead, he adopts a natural swagger that reinforces the topicality of the tunes and simultaneously furthers the abandon in the musicianship. And in doing so on all dozen cuts here, capped ever so appropriately via the CD-only bonus instrumental "Master IP," this iconoclastic artist paints a clear picture of himself and the world around him.

Jonathon Long
Parables Of A Southern Man
Wild Heart Records
2021

Despite the fact Samantha Fish channels her blues muse in producing this third Jonathon Long recording, it's borderline blasphemous to designate this Louisiana native a bluesman: he refuses to abide by traditional stylistic lines in composing his originals, which includes all of the twelve tunes on this recording. That said, while Long certainly has his antecedents, they are hardly genre-specific—the Allman Brothers Band comes to mind, for instance, on "Madison Square Garden," but more for the gusto of his performance, not just for the "Jessica"-like piano. And, provincial as this album title might sound, its contents are hardly circumscribed too narrowly— pop influences bubble up in "Landline," while the funk is unmistakable in the syncopation at the heart of "All I Need." Such varied leanings gain gravitas through integration into the artist's personal expression(s) and he further avoids the derivative through the burly power of his guitar technique—imaginative fretboard work like that which adorns "Savior's Face" in and of itself renders Parables Of A Southern Man worth hearing.

Tracks and Personnel

Mr. Luck

Tracks: Essence, Good Lover; Mr. Luck; Let's Get Together; Ain't that Loving You Baby; Honest I Do; High & Lonesome; Baby What You Want Me To Do; Roll and Rhumba; You Don't Have to Go; Shame Shame Shame; I'm That Man Down herre; Got Nowhere to Go; Big Boss Man; I Ain't Got You; I'm Going Upside Your Head: Bright Lights, Big City; Ghost of a Man.

Personnel: Ronnie Wood: vocals, guitar, drums; Mick Taylor: guitar; Bobby Womack: vocals, guitar; Paul Weller: vocals, guitar; Ben Waters: keyboards; Ian Jennings: bass; Dave Green: upright bass; Dexter Hercules: drums; Tommy Hare: vocals; Mick Hucknall: vocals.

The Blues Album

Tracks: Stop Messin' Round; If That Ain't A Reason; Keep On Lovin' Me; If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody; Don't Go Away Mad; Scraps Vignette; Can't You See What You're Doing To Me; Let Me Down Easy; Two Time My Lovin'; I Don't Know What You've Got; Three Time Loser.

Personnel: Joanne Shaw Taylor: vocals, guitar; Josh Smith: guitar; Joe Bonamassa: guitar, vocal. Reese Wynans: keyboards; Steve Patrick: trumpet; Mark Douthit: sax; Barry Green: trombone; Mike Farris: harmonica; Steve Mackey: bass; Greg Morrow: drums.

Pinky's Blues

Tracks: Pinky's Blues; Two Bit Texas Town; Dallas Man; Southern Men; Say It's Not So; Hurricane Girl; Stop These Teardrops; Boogie Real Low; Think It Over; Okie Dokie Stomp; Someday; When The Cat's Gone The Mice Play.

Personnel: Sue Foley: guitar, vocals; Mike Flanigin: Hammond B3 organ; Jimmie Vaughan: rhythm guitar; Jon Penner: bass; Chris "Whipper" Layton: drums.

Emotional Gangster

Tracks: Tonight I'm Gonna Be the Man; New Way of Walking; Equal Opportunity; Hoochie Cootchie Man; Save the Best for Last; Why You Wanna Make War (English version); Dust My Broom; I'm the Dog; Doing OK; Fly Away; Why You Wanna Make War (French version); Master IP.

Personnel: Popa Chubby: vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards; Jason Ricci: harmonica.

Parables Of A Southern Man

Tracks: Madison Square Garden; The Ride; My Kinda Woman; Pain; Landline; All I Need; Dangerous; Savior's Face; My Kind of Crazy; That Ain't Love; Cheap Romance; Jenny.

Personnel: Jonathon Long: guitar, vocals; Nicholas David: keys; Charlie Wooton: bass; Scot Graves: drums, percussion.

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