April 16, 2024

Dion – Girlfriends – “perfect driving music”


This has been a real pleasure to return to regularly over the past couple of weeks and that’s a surprise; I don’t usually go for these mixed duets albums. I’m largely sold by the scorching guitar of the opening ‘Soulshine’, burnt in by Susan Tedeschi, a goddess of the soul-blues. There’s a handful of other great tracks, including one with the liquid guitar of Joanne Shaw Taylor, but what makes me pop it on the headphones is the rolling good-time bluesy style and variety. Never challenging, always fun, always energising yet relaxing. Dion knows what he’s doing by now and his partners seem to enjoy the portmanteau-style presentation.

But one of the pleasures is the old-school style. These cover all the bases of the last half-century, wandering through rock and roll, blues, sixties pop, call and response, just all sorts and that might be because Dion is the Dion of Dion & The Belmonts, the unearthly voice of ‘I Wonder Why’ and hit-maker of ‘Runaround Sue’ and ‘The Wanderer’. At eighty-four he’s famous for all sorts or reasons but seems like a survivor from another age and it’s just great to hear him rocking on. He famously declined to take the plane with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper in 1959 because it cost $36 and he, less famously but just as remarkably for the music biz, has been married to the same woman since 1963.

He’s put out a few albums in the 2020s on Joe Bonamassa’s KTBA label (Keeping The Blues Alive) and seems to just be enjoying singing with a quality batch of performers. The doo-woppy roller of ‘Stop Drop and Roll’ is fun, while ‘Do Ladies Get The Blues’ with Christine Ohlman and Debbie Davies is an old fashioned hard electric blues with Dion getting properly told how cleaning up after him gives them the blues! Carlene Carter, of the Carter Family, brings her classic country voice to a lighter-waving ballad. ‘Endless Highway’ is a melodic rocker laced through with violin. Maggie Rose leads with gorgeously country-inflected heartbreak on ‘I Got Wise’ while Mexicali-infused ‘Hey Suzy’ gets a bit Los Lobos. The perfect ending is the fast and furious ‘Just Like That’, featuring the fluid and intuitive playing of Joanne Shaw Taylor.

It’s perfect driving music, though skip the air guitar opener and closer if you want to stay on the tarmac and out of the ditch…..

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