William Shatner - The Blues

Every time Shatner puts out an Album he focuses on a different genre and on this, his eighth music release, he delves into the blues, a music that has been dear to him for much of his life. And fans get a big bonus here as Shatner has assembled an incredible cast of guitarists to accompany him, with masters like Sonny Landreth, Ronnie Earl, Ritchie Blackmore, Pat Travers and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter among those appearing.

Shatner has taken a bit of flack in the past for his somewhat stilted vocal delivery, but those critics are missing the point. The star has explained that he uses his acting skills when singing, creating a scenario with each song's lyric as if he were performing an acting scene. No matter how the listener defines it, the result here is pure fun.

Even the most casual of blues fans will dig this set of familiar tunes as all but a couple of the songs are well-known chestnuts. The party gets started with a rollicking take on "Sweet Home Chicago" where Brad Paisley does some fancy picking while Kirk Fletcher handles the guitar on the slow and smoldering "I Can't Quit You Baby," the Willie Dixon favorite. Landreth plays Clapton's part on Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" and Shatner brings an eerie aura to the rock classic, emphasizing the line "to give you my dark surprise."

Other fun tracks include a sublime take on the BB King standard "The Thrill is Gone" with Blackmore on guitar and wife Candice Night on backing vocals, a super rhythmic "Mannish Boy" with Ronnie Earl, "Born Under a Bad Sign" featuring Tyler Bryant and a wild romp through the "Screaming" Jay Hawkins delight "I Put a Spell on You" complete with maniacal laughing from Shatner. Versions of "Smokestack Lightnin'," "Crossroads," "As the Years Go Passing By" and perennial American anthem "Route 66" are also included. On the hippie-era Canned Heat boogie "Let's Work Together," with Harvey Mandel and Canned Heat, Shatner sounds frustrated with naysayers as he stresses the word "c'mon" throughout the song.

The album closes with "Secrets and Sins," a departure from the rest of the album in that it does not feature a guest guitarist, and also because it is of a more personal nature; the cut was originally scheduled to appear on Shatner's next album, an autobiographical effort set to be called Love, Death and Horses. Until then the charming The Blues should keep fans happy.

The Blues drops on Oct. 2

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