It is unfortunate having to share his name with a certain person in Formula One as it could distract the unknowing…this particular Lewis Hamilton is far more articulate and far more musical…needless to say, ‘our’ Lewis’s direction is firmly on the blues circuit and his previous albums never got the exposure they deserved. I have been listening to him in the guise of Lewis Hamilton And The Boogie Brothers since the 2011 Gambling Machine release as well as Empty Roads, Ghost Train and Shipwrecked so I was delighted to receive the latest one, now billed as The Lewis Hamilton Band, On The Radio to enjoy and add to my blues-rock collection. (There are reviews of some of his previous albums here on Bluesdoodles, just use the search thingy. Selected tracks have also appeared on the admirable Juke Joint Compilations.)
The opening and title track, On The Radio, is slightly funky blues with a message that will resonate with many of us… “maybe I’m getting old, but new music’s got no soul, not like the blues.” That’s certainly true from my point of view (although if you feel old Lewis, then I will be competing with Methuselah very soon!) and, when that message is wrapped up in some great guitar work from Lewis with its Jimi and SRV influences, and clever bass from his dad, then this is a very good start indeed. Luck Could Strike Twice brings a nice shuffle with a simplistic melody and picked interjections from the guitar with a lovely tone and ‘voice’…as does the carefully picked solo that eschews histrionics and overuse of the top frets to deliver a meaningful and inventive piece. When The River Dries slows the pace for an intro of guitar and voice that sets the mood for a kind of electric Guthrie ‘Dustbowl’ song that allows the real emotions he can show in his playing and the solo is as drenched in feeling as the river is dry. Lewis may not be the best vocalist you will hear, but it works really well on this. Empty Roads is the track from that album revisited in a slightly faster, shorter and tighter version…it doesn’t better it but is still an interesting reworking.
Far Cry From Home is manna from heaven for me, as Lewis plays exquisite acoustic slide and recreates the sort of song that made the 20s and 30s such a rich blues vein. The picked solos are also inventive if a little short for me! Over My Head is back in SRV territory with an entertaining take on this style and the guitar phrasing remains all Lewis with a solo that again shows his innate understanding of how many notes are required to make a good solo great. Dusty Trail is electric southern rock(ish) as the train on the track rhythm carries you along and the solo again hits every note just right. Lazy (no, not that one) is acoustic country blues of quality as the picking and slide combine to conjure up the back porch setting and the slide solo is subtle, clever and has a tone that reminds me of Sylvester Weaver…a very good thing. The message of “at least I do lazy my way” is also very much me, so I relate lyrically and musically with this superb track. Dusk closes the album with a dramatic instrumental with only his acoustic telling the story. Recorded properly; with every wound string echoing the fingering, movements adds realism and texture and makes this a remarkable three and a half minutes…if it had been three hours, I would never get bored of this kind of inventive and heartfelt playing.
In summary, then, this is possibly Lewis’s best so far. This album has variation, subtlety and boldness that make it enjoyable from start to finish. It may not be ‘new’ but he does blues so well I’m really not bothered. The combination of electric and acoustic, blues, rock and country means there are always nuances in the playing to seek out as you listen…and I mean listen, not hear. Give it a try and prepare to spend money as you buy up his back catalogue.
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
- On The Radio
- Luck Could Strike Twice
- When The River Dries
- Empty Roads
- Far Cry From Home
- Over My Head
- Dusty Trail
All songs written, recorded and mastered byLewis Hamilton
Recorded at Coneysthorpe Village Hall(Near Malton in N. Yorkshire in case you’re wondering)
Lewis Hamilton – Guitar/Vocals
Nick Hamilton – Bass
Ian Beeston/George Handley – Drums
(The iTunes follow on track this time was the harp driven blues boogie of L’il Ronnie on Can’t Buy My Love.)