Cleopatra Records 5th June 2020
I gave this a listen on the strength of the guests – Keb’ Mo’, Albert Lee (both Blues royalty), Jorma Kaukonen (Hot Tuna) and, erm, Charlie Harper from the UK Subs (what?!). Once the album got cracking, I stopped listening for the guests and just enjoyed it. Solid blues-soul, it shifts between blues rock and soul, in a polished style with a big band and loads of twisting guitar and punchy vocals. After the openers, we are into lovers territory and ‘Someday, Someway’ is a sea-change into Percy Sledge territory as the organ glissando rises and a female vocal brings a new register.
I’m a sucker for a Hammond organ and some bluesy guitar so the well-meaning but Bob Geldof-y lyrics of the opener get a free pass thanks to Jorma Kaukonen’s ripping lines. . The succeeding tracks don’t have the same issue and I’m never going to be able to accuse songs like ‘I Feel The Blues Coming On’ as being lyrically naff….. Every song has a guest (it’s a thing Cleopatra Records encourage, to attract more listeners). Here, it blends unobtrusively into the expert band. In songs like ‘The Thang’, Jesse Johnson (guitarist with Prince’s The Time) adds scorching guitar that adds to, rather than smothers the piece. Keb’ Mo’ is an artist of the old school blues and ‘Old Time Used to Be’ is a proper Walking Blues stomp.
An album can’t be called a blues album unless it has a song about a bowlegged woman and a knock-kneed man and a nicely bluesy wiggle ensues with harmonica solos and bluesy licks as it struts along. Seven More Steps sees Albert Lee join on a rolling and melodic head wiggler. Jellybean Johnson features on Uptown To Harlem, any other groovy blues number with a thorough work out of the Hammond organ. It wouldn’t matter who was guesting – this band makes it an enjoyable blues experience. Onto the closer, Love’s classic ‘7 And 7 Is’, with Charlie Harper. The UK Subs frontman’s appearance isn’t such a surprise – the Subs’ first album was called “Another Kind of Blues” – and his hoarse shout punctuates nicely, while the song is fleshed out with more lead guitar than Arthur Lee’s original and a slow blues breakdown in the middle is pleasing.
This is a really solid and pleasing blues-soul album from a veteran who still has it – the blues – and the soul.