A big part of the evolution of the blues was the field songs and gospel music that infused themselves into the very heart of the genre. That gospel infusion means it is no surprise, to me at least, that there are artists who use blues to communicate their faith…Sister Rosetta Tharpe and that white SG spring to mind immediately. Nor is this confined to the blues, after all Stryper have been recording and performing ‘Christian Metal’ for a number of years and have fans that follow that faith as well as other fans of different beliefs.
Well, there is a new(ish) kid in town who is sharing his devotion via a strong tenor vocal, a deft touch on the guitar and wrapping it up in the blues power trio format that is The Joe Lewis Band. They have already released three albums (the first in 2009) and the fourth, entitled Up Next was released last month.
(I must also note that the blues has long been thought of, wrongly on many occasions, as portraying sad stories of love gone bad and other mishaps. Dig deeper and you’ll also find songs shot through love gone right, beliefs of every creed and others with humour ranging from the salacious to the downright surreal. That is the beauty of our beloved genre and one of the reasons I spend so much time seeking out the old, the new and the obscure.)
Anyway, onto the music: The opening track starts as if Slade did the blues…listen and you’ll see what I mean but I Like It quickly moves into a very well structured blues song with a layer of funk and some sterling guitar work from Joe.
The next track, Hot Lovin’ Momma, may not sound very spiritual but this funky blues number has plenty of soul and a scorching guitar solo too. Can I Get With You brings to my strange mind the image of Stray Cats recording for Tamla! It does work and is a definite toe-tapper with another great solo from Joe.
Do Your Work In Me is a gentle soulful blues and the first overt devotional lyric…whatever your thoughts on the lyrics, listen to the neat guitar phrasing and the scat guitar solo is fun. Broken Angel Of The Delta is a ballad that threatens to overwhelm but then he delivers a sensitive, but short, solo of class.
Do Drop Inn has a touch of the Stevie Salas in the chord work as more funk blues tells the story of Joe discovering his calling…an almost paradoxical heavy blues phased guitar solo improves this no end.
Now for an instrumental with a great title; Twang A Doodle Boom Boom is fast, fun and my favourite as the guitar styles change and interchange, but always entertaining. Baby Rocks The Boat brings us a Texas-style shuffle that ticks all the boxes…and, yes, delivers a solid solo too. Defying Gravity is more funky blues with a wah’d phrasing to introduce another too-short solo.
Jesus I love The Way You Love closes the album with an acoustic ballad that is a true devotional from Joe and shows how and why gospel works with the blues…the electric solo lifts it but is again too short for me.
There is plenty to enjoy on this varied, accomplished album; some may find the lyrics a revelation, some may find them off-putting…regardless of your beliefs it is most certainly worth a listen.
Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle Paws – a great listen for some quality blues played with aplomb.
1. I Like It
2. Hot Lovin’ Momma
3. Can I Get With You
4. Do Your Work In Me
5. Broken Angel Of The Delta
6. Do Drop Inn
7. Twang A Doodle Boom Boom
8. Baby Rocks The Boat
10. Jesus I love The Way You Love
Joe Lewis: guitar, vocals
Tom Cole: bass
Derrick Enyard: drums
Mixed by Kevin Shirley, mastered by Bob Ludwig
(The iTunes run on track brought me some Joe Lynn Turner from his heavy/melodic rock solo days and the solid Holy man album.)