For a man who released this, his thirteenth album, earlier this year, US bluesman Shawn Pittman remains largely unknown here. This is a shame because his style of blues-rock may not be groundbreaking, but he delivers music of very high quality with enough originality to make every one of those albums worth seeking out. He plays the guitar better than many more feted guitarists and effortlessly traverses the fretboard in an always entertaining way summoning up the sounds and styles of the early masters without the ‘sounds like’ tag ever rearing its head.
Take his latest album, Make It Right!: a mix of covers and originals that, over the course of the album, showcase this remarkable and underrated talent. Recorded before the Covid crisis he took the time while in Copenhagen along with bassist Erkan Özdemir and his son Levent on drums, to create a live-sounding, quality power trio blues album.
Opening with Done Tole You So, you’ll get the idea immediately with its riff bringing early pioneers to mind as well as the SRV phrasing…a real quality start and a solo to absorb as the sparse notes echo the melody and lyrical story.
Covering Albert King is always brave and Shawn takes Finger On The Trigger, keeps the essence of the original but firmly stamps his own identity in the variation he brings to the runs and fills on the guitar…the solos also bring this same brilliance of interpretation. The title track, ups the pace a little with a stomping modern take on classic blues. It has a sort of Canned Heat feel (which is a very good thing) with added Seasick fuzzed guitar…irresistible from beginning to end with great solo too.
I Feel Good may be familiar from Junior Kimbrough’s original; as ever, Shawn puts a sheen of his own and makes it dare I say it, as good as Junior’s…the solo is certainly novel and fitting. Eddie Taylor gets the Pittman treatment next as we get a great reading of There Will Be A Day. This time he adds extra ‘oomph’ with the skilful funk and adds a solo that conjures a JL Hooker atmosphere…the bass line is genius too as Erkan manages to fit in some delightful runs. How Long is an example of how to take the most basic blues structure and put new life into them as we get an almost Kossoff like guitar intro over such a familiar pattern and then injects a clever solo that is more Trower…both references are compliments by the way?
For Right Now is also a bit Free at the beginning (another compliment) before he takes us into a solo that uses tone and effect to err, great effect. This languid song is less immediate than the preceding tracks but still, rewards with a few listens. Now if I were going to do a cover of a James Brown song, I think I’d do exactly what Shawn has done…
Cold Sweat is a simply brilliant, funk-filled instrumental interpretation of the vocally incomparable Mr Brown…the difference, if I had done it being the guitar, wouldn’t sound anywhere near this good; Shawn makes the guitar talk as the father and son rhythm section are in perfect harmony behind it all.
Next up is a song from Bobby Blue Bland…if you think he only did ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart of the City’, then think again. Woke Up Screaming has Bland’s trademark lilt and lyricism that Shawn takes and fits it into a neat blues-rock structure and a solo to envy. Let It Go is another familiar blues trope with Shawn’s impeccable touch and natural feel that ensures it is very much new, and very well worth listening to with another sparse noted solo of sheer quality. Fairweather Friend is my current favourites as I cannot help but imagine that this is Muddy doing Lightnin’ Hopkin’s song…it just has the colour and phrasing they had but in a brand new song. The solo is genius too.
The closing song, I’m Done, is call and response song but with some delicious slide that makes me think these three had an absolute ball making this one as a celebration of a job well done.
As I said, there are no major surprises on this album but if, like me, you love electric blues played with skill, emotion and an unerring ability to put all the runs, bends and slides in exactly the right places, then this is, quite simply, an essential for your collection: go buy it!
Bluesdoodles rating: a Wonderful, a slice of true blues rock as you’ll find anywhere on the planet.
1. Done Tole You So
2. Finger On The Trigger
3. Make It Right!
4. I Feel Good
5. There Will Be A Day
6. How Long
7. For Right Now
8. Cold Sweat
9. Woke Up Screaming
10. Let It Go
11. Fairweather Friend
12. I’m Done
(The iTunes run on track didn’t take too far back in time…just to the 2010 loveliness of the Sheepdogs and Let It Show from their Big Stand album…they manage to out southern those other lot!!)