304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws — a wonderful blues album that takes the old and turns it into something brand new, refreshing and very rewarding.
Some people apparently think that Blonde On Blonde were 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. On leaving them, 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, occasionally, serious prog such as the album with Dave Greenslade called G&T which came out earlier this year.
The blues is still key however and after the One More Mile album that was carefully chosen blues covers and some superb Groundhog songs, he returns with Road To The Blues: only one cover this time from Chuck Berry, otherwise, there are twelve bluesy slices of loveliness to enjoy…all the while remembering that Dave is a Welshman living in Norfolk and the Americanisms scattered through the lyrics are probably from his regular visits to perform across the States. No doubting the guitar excellence to come as the cover photo shows Dave lovingly cradling his Gibson ES.
Opening with the title track, Road to the Blues further cements Dave’s compositional and guitar skill but also high lists his unselfish approach as all of the band get a chance to shine. James Goodwin sparkles on the piano as the clever bass and drums back him and Dave’s chord work. Paying deference to the blues lyrically and structurally, his vocal wears the pain and the guitar solo illuminates it…even if a bit short.
The Lady’s Not For Turning is not about Margret Thatcher…rather it is a play on the play by Christopher Fry: The Lady’s Not For Burning. Unless that is, Mrs Thatcher unbeknownst to me, “…walks with a wiggle, stops street cars in their tracks”, but I think not! This too uses recognisable tropes, but in Dave’s hands this song has an irresistible rhythm with some rolling drums, piano and guitar. Eye On the Money is about the band touring America to an R’n’B base and some lovely guitar behind the ‘full band’ sound and lots of sax incursions.
Another Girl is slower, piano-led soulful blues of the sort that Ray Charles made his own. The piano sweeps the drama around the story of love lost and love (quickly) found. Somehow it never ends up as mawkish as the piano is the star all the way. Everywhere Man is another road story and I doubt another song exists that includes such a geography lesson…”From Newport to Japan I’ve carried this guitar with me from Pwyll to Yucatan.” All set to a bluesy, percussion-filled, sax and piano score with only subtle guitar showing…OK, I’m biased but a guitar solo would have made it better as the occasional stab of guitar promises so much.
Leaving San Francisco is blues with, ironically, a Chicago feel with a rolling rhythm (a la a slightly quicker I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom) and some startling use of the guitar inserts and (at last) a genius solo…bit short though! Rose Tinted Love again has recognisable roots in its brand new construct: the gentle harp is in concert with the guitar and piano which takes the solos brilliantly. Last Thing is irresistible from the first bass note of the intro as this allows, heavy blues captivates. The guitar is again steeped in tone and the solo is divine and, with washes of organ, this is my current favourite.
Pretty in Pink brings Dave’s acoustic skills to the fore with a blues song filled with great rhythm and feel…as well as a lot of double entendres or maybe it’s just my mind, after all after the “my you have such supple wrists” is followed immediately by “playing pool”. Winnebago Dreaming is new old blues with some really clever lyrics that again travel the UK (Croydon and Pinner feature) before achieving the dream. It is the full band sound and blues guitar that makes it work across a continent and an island.
After All These Years has a plaintive harp contributing to the true blues and, once again, the familiar is reworked and renewed into a classic and rewarding guitar-sprinkled blues. Natural State of Mind is a treat and not only because it has a slinky, slidey solo that is an absolute inventive delight. Now for the Chuck berry cover: Memphis Tennessee is a truly unique reworking as it becomes an acoustic masterclass that happens to have berry’s lyrics and basic melodies…otherwise it is a slightly folky blues that sounds very original. For younger readers, there was a time when there was no internet and a real person on the other end of the phone looked numbers up for you: it was called directory enquiries here and [telephone] information in the States as paper directories in ‘phone boxes couldn’t cover the whole country…history lesson over!
As always with Mr Thomas, he delivers such carefully crafted, blues-laced music that rewards the listener in so many ways and these originals are definitely among his best.
Road to the Blues
The Lady’s Not For Turning
Eye On the Money
Leaving San Francisco
Rose Tinted Love
Pretty in Pink
After All These Years
Natural State of Mind
All songs (except for ‘Last Thing’ and ‘Memphis Tennessee’) – music written by Dave Thomas and Steve Jinks
Lyrics for ‘Road To The Blues’, ‘Everywhere Man’, ‘After All These Years’ and ‘Natural State Of Mind’ by Julia Smalley Lyrics and music for ‘Last Thing’ by Gill Thomas
Lyrics and music for ‘Memphis Tennessee’ by Chuck Berry
Dave Thomas: Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
Steve Jinks: Bass, Drums & Percussion, Backing Vocals
James Goodwin: Piano
Phil Marshall: Saxophone
Gareth Tucker: Harmonica
Michael Smith: Harmonica
John Thirkell: Trumpet
Recorded, mixed and mastered at Pine Tree Studios by Steve Jinks.
Produced by Dave Thomas and Steve Jinks
(iTunes kept it blue with the 1992, star studded LA Blues Authority album (the first of a few excellent volumes) The song this time is the JJ Cale classic, Same Old Blues but heavy and very blues performed by the remarkable team work of Davey Pattison, Brad Gillis, Phil Soussan and Fred Coury…simply brilliant.)