Margolin reflects on a 50-year career in album opener "My Whole Life," a lighthearted look at having to do things like play sports bars where the big screen TV gets more attention than the bandstand. The payoff comes though, for Margolin's story and for fans, when the guitarist emphatically states "My whole life led up to this!" before reeling off a hot guitar solo. Margolin penned about half of the tunes here and those have subject matter that is self-revelatory, like during the musical pep talk that is "I Shall Prevail," and clearly Margolin has been in the business for so long because he knows how to ride the rollercoaster of life. He knows his chops too, playing sweet slide guitar riffs and moaning the blues on the eerie "Understanding Heart" and sharing the spotlight with harp player Tad Walters on the cowboy blues of "Ask Me No Questions." Margolin also plays some non-original material here, the most striking of which are DB Codd's "Devil's Daughter" and album closer "Heaven Mississippi," a Terry Abrahamson song.
Supersonic Blues Machine
West of Flushing, South of Frisco
Supersonic Blues Machine is made up of three renowned guns-for-hire: bass man Fabrizio Grossi, guitarist Lance Lopez and drummer Kenny Aronoff. Here they turn in a solid set of blues rock with about half of the songs featuring performances from their high-powered pals; Billy F. Gibbons of ZZ Top plays guitar on "Running Whiskey" while Warren Haynes trades slide guitar licks with Lopez on "Remedy" and Chris Duarte handles guest guitar duties on "That's My Way." The special players, also including Eric Gales, Walter Trout and Robben Ford, are nice additions but the trio certainly doesn't need to augment their sound except for fun, witness the boogie of "Bone Bucket Blues," the soulful "Ain't No Love (In the Heart of the City)" and funky album closer "Watchagonnado."
Raise Your Hands!
Formerly the guitarist for the Blind Boys of Alabama, here Butler steps out with a set of blues-flavored spirituals for his solo debut. These are not re-workings of gospel chestnuts though, rather the set is made up of covers of songs written by contemporary artists, like the Bee Gees' "The Lord," Johnny Cash's "Lead Me Father" and a take on Bruce Springsteen's "Heaven's Wall," who's chorus gives the album its title. Eric Clapton's "Presence of the Lord" gets an especially tender treatment from Butler but Tom Waits' "Gospel Train" is pure strutting funk. It's tough to pick highlights on this very solid offering but many may point to Butler's take on Nick Cave's "God's Hotel" as one of the best.