Mississippi bluesman Chris Gill has fulfilled an ambition: an album of just him, a small amplifier, a few (gorgeous) old guitars and a voice that is soaked and smoked in the blues. (Beware as you search for him via t’internet, because there a few about this Chris Gill isn’t the one from David Coverdale’s hometown!) This talented lover of the blues has paused from his more diverse work with the Sole Shakers and temporarily left the reggae, funk, jazz and soul behind to deliver eleven tracks of pure, acoustic blues. The album is called Between Midnight And Louise and is a geographical rather than metaphysical reference, as you’ll see.
The first track, Thank You For Another Day, is an instrumental that is dedicated to his “grandaddy” who always said he owed his long life to “each day I wake up, I thank the Lord for another day and go on down the road”….somehow the delicate acoustic structure tells every detail of that story without a single word from Chris; instead the guitar does all of the talking.
The countrified blues finds the guitars singing the verses and chorus without the need for a solo as such. Song For Honeyboy is a tribute to the great Honeyboy Edwards and, in the last verse, to the genius that was Hubert Sumlin. The slide via a National guitar is sublime and Chris’s voice fits perfectly as he tells the tale of travelling with the love of his life (a guitar) in a distinctive style that reflects the nuances that Honeyboy was so good at…we get a slide solo too with all of the string/bottleneck buzz and it sounds just great.
Back To Paradise puts into words the hope for the world getting back on track; set over some raw but pure picking and chord work that continues through a brilliant solo. You Never Know (That’s What Love Will Do) is a love song set against a delicately picked melody with a more melodic vocal and has hints of Mississippi John Hurt in the glistening guitar.
Rolling Man was inspired by a hobo’s tales…Tom (not me, honest!) revealed his roots in a brilliantly oblique way with the phrase, “Don’t ask me where I’m from, I come from where I been”. It has a fairly unique sound too, as Chris utilises a Baritone guitar (usually this kind of guitar has a longer neck and heavier gauge strings) and it’s used to its full extent with a genius opening riff that rattles the bass strings and, as the bottleneck roams freely, it just keeps getting better…it could have been written in 20s or 30s with its passion, laid back energy and feel and I love it!
Fleas And Ticks is a fear that pet owners share with Chris’s grandmother…these bugs are a potential danger and, where par-tick-ularly, ticks are concerned, ugly, creepy and damnably hard to remove safely. Anyway, this tale of rusting tractors and critters is set against a sort of Robert Johnson sounding guitar chord and pick progression and a purposely hesitant solo that is clever, and exceedingly good. Souvenir Of The Blues features the Baritone and bottleneck again in a tale of homelessness and the familiar structure works well in Chris’s hands; the bass tones are feral and the high slide angelic and it just gels, especially in the oh so clever solo.
Long Distance Highways is about travelling (natch) and a lighter gauge guitar and gentle picking makes this a country blues with some class…it’s not called a resonator for nothing! The short solo to the fade is worth the wait. I Fell In Love With The Blues is a co-write with Virgil Brawley who Chris performed with regularly until his untimely death a couple of years ago. Unsurprisingly, it uses established blues frameworks but with some freshness via the picked guitar leaving no doubt that it is about the blues and that there is love in every note; the central guitar section (not a solo per se) is worth skipping back a few times because it is so good and it makes it longer!
Walking Through Eden is another Virgil tune about the town of that name as opposed to the garden…it’s as close to a ‘normal song’ as you’ll get on this great album; it has a less roaming chord phrasing and rhythm and a short solo of quality.
The final and title track, Between Midnight And Louise, was inspired by a real road sign at the gateway to the Delta and, in case you doubt it, a photograph appears on the back of the CD booklet to prove these two towns exist. Written on a seashore watching the waves, this instrumental closes with exploration and explanation of everything that is good in a guitar: harmonics, picking, slide, runs and bends all contribute to a song that is in tune (literally) with the ocean…and me.
In summary, this is a great album that is full of the blues… which means emotion (in guitar and vocal), humour, sadness, reality and a constant reminder of what the Delta did for the music of today.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a wonderful album for aficionados of acoustic blues both picked and slided(!) It evokes the blues of a bygone era in a fresh and satisfying way.
Thank You For Another Day
Song For Honeyboy
Back To Paradise
You Never Know (That’s What Love Will Do)
Fleas And Ticks
Souvenir Of The Blues
Long Distance Highways
I Fell In Love With The Blues
Walking Through Eden
Between Midnight And Louise
Chris Gill; everything you hear!
(iTunes served up either a difficult choice or a truly mammoth listening session as Chris Rea is the next artist and his eleven CD box set, Blue Guitars, began to play…a bit much for one sitting, but so many highlights of his true blues (not Christmas) songcraft.)