Few bluesmen have the gravitas that Mayall has; some of the players that honed their chops in his Bluesbreakers band include Eric Clapton, Mick Fleetwood, Mick Taylor, John McVie, Jack Bruce and Peter Green. In the late '60s and into the '70s it was almost mandatory that rock fans had a couple Mayall albums in their collection but many lost track of the guitarist as time passed. Other than a brief hiatus here and there Mayall has never quit pumping out the blues and this 3-CD set offers fans a chance to catch up and specifically find out what he's been up to this century. Stories, from 2002, features a mix of Mayall originals like "Kids Got the Blues," a celebration of young blues fans and players, and covers of chestnuts like "Kokomo" and lesser-known tunes like Julie Miller's "Dirty Water." 2005's Road Dogs on the other hand features only Mayall-penned material like the funky country blues of "Forty Days," the roadhouse jump of "Burned Bridges" and the soulful piano-and-guitar Memphis blues of "Awestruck & Spellbound." In the Palace of the King, released in 2007, is a tribute to Freddie King with guitarist Robben Ford on board as a full member of the Bluesbreakers. Among the best cuts here are a scathing take on the classic "Going Down," perennial favorite "Big Legged Woman" and saucy road tribute "Living on the Highway." Mayall has just turned 80-years-old and this material was mostly recorded while he was in his 70s but his playing remains flawless and his voice, strong and emotive, sounds more authoritative than ever. For fans of the electric blues it is once again mandatory Mayall time.
Mark T. Small
Lead Foot Music
Here's a fine set of acoustic blues, just Small singing and accompanying himself on a Martin flattop guitar, or on tunes like John Lee Hooker's "My Daddy Was a Jockey," on a National resophonic guitar. Small has a good bluesy voice but the star of Smokin' Blues is his picking, done here to a selection of classics including "Walkin' the Dog," "Early in the Morning" and Reverend Gary Davis' "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning." In a bit of a departure, Small performs his own country-blues, the Merle Travis-style "America Medley" to close the album.
What would Bo Diddley think? Likely the late singer, one of rock'n'roll's founding fathers, would dig Gillespie's blues-with-a-Bo-Diddley-beat "What Would Bo Diddley Do." The tune is a bit of a departure for Gillespie who mostly plays straight blues here, working through a few covers like the traditional "Early in the Morning" and an impressive bunch of self-penned numbers like the funky, organ-driven "My Tipitina" where the singer/guitarist/harmonica player also adds trumpet fills, the J.J. Cale-like "16 Days" and the piano boogie-woogie of "It Wasn't Me." Gillespie has a friendly, lived-in voice that alternates between sounding like a tipsy Randy Newman and, on the blues rock of "Let's Get Together," Mark Knopfler, all of which makes this set easy to get comfortable with.
Annika Chambers & The Houston All-Stars
Making My Mark
On opening cut "Move" Chambers doesn't come right out and say it; ostensibly the song is about how she's making music to dance to. But the slow, soulful beat and Chambers' slinky vocal delivery makes it clear that the moves she's talking about are the kind that take place in the bedroom. "Barnyard Blues," on the other hand, is downright randy as various farm animals strut their stuff and proclaim their, er, romantic prowess. A long, sax-enhanced take on the oft-covered "Jealous Kind" is an album standout as is the Tina Turner-like roadhouse soul of "Trust Me" and the boisterous album closer, a romp through B.B. King's "Let's Get Down to Business."