Grant Lyle - So There
Grant Lyle is a Canadian blues singer that's got the whole blues performance deal down pat. So There is an album of slick blues songs. Lyle is doubly talented, though, as he can both sing and play guitar well. This is truly one professional offering.
Although it's tough to pick one highlight over all the others "Cheri Ann," with its upbeat, lighter touch is a standout. For blues power, nothing beats the slow, soulful grove that is "Trouble Blues. " This is one where Lyle allows himself the opportunity to just let the music flow naturally. Although he lets loose with some mighty fast electric lead lines, the listener is never given the impression he is just showing off. Instead, you really believe he is feeling the blues, which is exactly what any sincere blues artist should be doing.
As a musician, it's difficult to align Lyle's guitar style with any one particular player. He's playing is fluid like Robert Cray, famous for the song "Smoking Gun." Lyle is more about making it smooth and pleasing, though, rather than harsh and powerful. He doesn't go for those stinging high notes the way, say, B.B. King likes to play it.
Vocally, Lyle can sometimes sound like Eric Clapton. Clapton has always struck me as a somewhat reluctant vocalist; one that might be more inclined to just play his ax instead of singing you a song. Lyle comes off a little like Clapton in that regard. One place where Lyle sounds like one vocalist in particular is with "Walk On." On it, he is a dead ringer for Steve Winwood. Not only does his voice have a similar range to Winwood's, but the track's overall groove has a vibe not unlike Winwood's 1988 hit "Roll With It." "Walk On" truly feels as though it was cut with the exact same cloth as that single.
In the lyrical department, Lyle will likely never get confused with a poet. His song words are functional, at best. There are none of the sexual euphemisms we've come to expect from blues songs – particularly the Chicago variety. He may have his mojo working, but if he's thinking about squeezing any lemons, he's not going to tell us about all that in song.
While nobody expects Lyle to be somebody he isn't, it would sure be great if he created more memorable songs. His songs are sincere; they're just not noteworthy. After listening to this album multiple times, nothing really sticks out and stops me in my tracks. It's almost as though he's writing down to the expectations of generic blues music, instead of rising above it and making his own unique impression. What do we learn about Lyle as an individual from these songs, for example? Nothing, really. He's a good player and singer, but his songs do not reveal the man behind them. He doesn't need to bare his soul, but he should at least open a window into his personality. Music without a personality is just good music, nothing more.
This is a well played album, and deserves praise. Let's just hope Grant Lyle shows a little of what makes him tick the next time he releases music.
Grant Lyle - So There
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