I still hear of people who think that Blonde On Blonde was an 80s pop band…well they weren’t! They were in fact an innovative and progressive (in every sense) rock band of the 70s with Dave Thomas fronting them for successful albums and appearances. Since then, he returned to the blues that captivated him in the 60s when he started his musical journey, and has released some serious blues albums and, thanks to the dreaded lurgy and the subsequent lockdown, he has used the internet to pull together some remarkable musicians and complete this latest release. One More Mile is, happily for us, the first of three albums to come over the next months and carries his trademark vocal style and a mix of originals and covers, including some choice Groundhogs tunes recorded with Ken Pustelnik’s authentic version of that seminal band…plenty to look forward to then.
The opener is from the pen of BB King and Jules Taub; It’s My Own Fault has grown and developed from a song BB did in 1952 called My Own fault Darlin’. This version takes this powerful song and, with a horn section, Hammond and tasty guitar, do it more than justice…think the Chicago blues masters in a modern studio and that’s the kind of feel I get listening to this lovely slice
of blues. I Like My Chicken Fried is a recipe (sorry!) for instrumental wizardry…listen to the bass, the brass, the Hammond, the guitar, the drums, the vocals individually or you will miss how clever this new composition is…the Hammond solo is subtle but effective and the guitar phrasing in and around it exquisite even they’re both a bit low in the mix. The title track adds some harmonica to bring a familiar blues structure to life on this song from Muddy Waters (although it is credited to James Cotton in the sleeve notes who did do a very different, funked-up version eleven years later): regardless the quality of both are reflected in this version.
Next up we are welcomed with delicious guitar and keys on the intro to Poor Boy…the composition shows how a deep and thorough understanding of the blues can be ably reflected in a new song: it has a soulful touch in the vocals and the Hammond and guitar provide a perfect backdrop before we get a guitar solo proper that has a simplicity that astounds in its effectiveness…too short though. I Want The Blues is err, our blues with a hint of the country style of blues of yore. The acoustic backing is just right and the solo is a pearler.
You Danced In My Kitchen slows down still further with an acoustic outing of clarity, sadness and beauty…the solo is in harmony with the lyrics and speaks just as lucidly. There’s A Train is the third acoustic; slow and gentle with lyrical cliches that work and the guitar throughout is worth concentrating on and the solo is lyrical in a very slow Spanish way.
After the three slow ones, we move into the land of the Groundhogs with three from the genius that was That Christ for The Bomb and, with Pustelnik’s crew and Dave doing a great Tony McPhee, it is a great tribute and yet still has a new feel…the playing is superb and pays homage and justice to the original. Garden is first and the riff and slide solo are enough to justify buying this album! Eccentric Man is just as good and I think I will be digging the original vinyl out very soon and listen to these back to back; they are that good. The final track here was the first track on Thank Christ; Strange Town was a great opener and now it is a peerless closer. They have preserved the sense of time and feel of the original and the guitar solo shows such empathy for the great McPhee.
This is a great album that has blues aplenty but with its many facets explored so well; the Groundhogs section is my favourite but then I’ve always loved them and so inevitable bias surfaces. Give it a try and you won’t be disappointed.
Bluesdoodles rating: A Wonderful varied blues album with added bite on the Groundhogs songs.
Tracklisting and composer:
It’s My Own Fault (BB King)
I Like My Chicken Fried (Dave Thomas)
One More Mile To Go (James Cotton)
Poor Boy (Thomas)
I Want The Blues (Tony Henderson)
You Danced In My Kitchen (Henderson)
There’s A Train (Declan Sinnott/Henderson)
Garden (Tony McPhee)
Eccentric Man (McPhee)
Strange Town (McPhee)
Dave Thomas: guitars, vocals on all tracks.
The first four tracks: Terry Popple Drums; Dylan ApIvor Bass; Tom Arnold Hammond Organ; the American horn section from the Travis Haddix Band, with the late Norman Tischler Saxophone and Jeff Hager “Hager the Herald” (USA) Trumpet.
The next three tracks were recorded and mixed in Ireland by Declan Sinnott who plays all the instruments.
The last three tracks were recorded in Bristol with Ken Pustelnik’s Groundhogs and Dave completed by recording vocals and mastering in Norfolk.