RESONATE Glenn Hughes (Frontiers) *** ½ This is Glenn Hughes’s 11th solo album, and it’s crushingly heavy- moreso than any of the others. As he has said elsewhere, “it’s not metal, it’s heavy rock”, and rock it does.You may be more familiar with Glenn through his work as bassist/ vocalist with Trapeze, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Tony Iommi, Black Country Communion or, most recently, California Creed. His signature blend of rock, soul and funk is evident on Resonate as he tears and grinds through 11 tracks with his road band; Soren Andersen (guitars, co-producer), Pontus Enborg (drums) and Lachy Doley (keyboards), along with the appearance of his friend Chad Smith (RHCP drummer) on Heavy and Long Time Gone.The grooves are deep and hard, and you won’t hear anyone taking it easy here. “It’s the first kind of a complete Glenn album” says The Voice Of Rock and, after a few spins thru already today, and my familiarity with his past work, I have to agree. I just test drove this on the way to town and back (the car is a great place to listen) and people were openly staring it was so loud.While Resonate sounds absolutely like Glenn Hughes, it stands apart from virtually everything he’s done before. It’s hard and heavy, yet much different from his work with the bands mentioned above and to the 3 solo albums of his I also have. The sound of this disc is physical and the playing is very soulful. I gotta single out keyboardist Lachy Doley in particular, though- more than once I caught myself thinking “that sounds like something Jon Lord would’ve done.”As we all look forward to the next Black Country Communion record and cross our fingers for further collaborations with Tony Iommi, this hard rock n funk adventure that is Resonate will keep you movin’.
ESSENTIALS: Heavy, Steady, Long Time Gone
BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW Big Dave McLean (Black Hen) *****This isn’t my first encounter with the music of big Dave McLean, but it’s the best one. Weaving country gospel, pure Delta blues and more, Better The Devil You Know digs deep and comes up with a true blues experience.Produced by Steve Dawson, an amazing artist in his own right, this disc is as rich sonically as it is musically and lyrically. Big Dave, the son of a Presbyterian minister, gives the devil his due (figuratively speaking) while using lots of spiritual references. Talk About A Revolution was inspired by the mass shootings in Paris, there are a couple of songs in tribute to fallen loved ones, while Dawson contributed The Side of The Road (about Skip James) and Angeline, about Blind Willie Johnson leaving his wife with nothing but the blues.As blues albums go, Better The Devil You Know is an embarrassment of riches. Billboard magazine’s Larry LeBlanc once wrote that Big Dave “has done more to shape western Canada’s blues scene than perhaps any other artist”, and with his latest album he’s STILL doing it. Colin James and Wide Mouth Mason take inspiration from this guy, and so does anybody that will bend an ear. He gives a nod to his hero Muddy Waters with great version of Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had and to end the album in fine blues style, visited Jack White’s studio to record Johnny Shines’ Pet Rabbit in White’s 30’s style recording booth. When it comes to lowdown blues, Big Dave McLean’s new record is as real as it gets.
ESSENTIALS: You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had, Deep Down In Florida, Pet Rabbit
ON SAFARI The Kentucky Headhunters (Plowboy/ Practice House Records) ****The Kentucky Headhunters have returned from the rock & roll jungle with their 12th studio album, a spicy southern rock stew. On Safari is the cure for whatever ails you.I’m an idiot- thanks to one song, Dumas Walker, I thought these guys were straight up country- until I heard their 2015 disc Meet Me In Bluesland with the late, great Johnnie Johnson. This is top shelf southern rock with lots of spirit and swagger, not unlike old Skynyrd and Steve Earle albums., with maybe a touch of Rolling Stones- ragged and not always right on the beam, yet somehow perfect because of it.On Safari comes after several life changing events within the band, including members Richard and Fred Young losing their dad just 3 days before heading into the studio. As a result there is plenty of raw emotion on display and, of course, this set is dedicated to James Howard Young, “who taught us to love life and all that God has given us.”Part of the inspiration for this album too, is their first ever European trip. The Headhunters credit Richard Young’s son John Fred and his band mates in Blackstone Cherry for pushing them out of their comfort zone to make that trek to where many of their influences call home. “What makes you weak makes you stronger” Richard says.History will judge On Safari as a southern rock classic, but you need to get this album today, throw it on and turn it up. You know how great a plate of BBQ ribs tastes? That’s what this sounds like. It’s one of the year’s best in ANY genre.
ESSENTIALS: Deep South Blues Again, Caught In A Dream (the Alice Cooper song!), God Loves A Rolling Stone
KEEPIN’ OUTTA TROUBLE: A TRIBUTE TO BUKKA WHITE Rory Block (Stony Plain) *****The sixth and latest installment is Rory’s stellar “Mentor” series of releases. She has previously addressed the music of Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James- this time out it’s BB King’s 2nd cousin Bukka White, and this could be the best of them all.“I met Bukka White in the back room of a Greenwich Village night club one evening in 1965” Rory says in the liner notes. “Watching him perform was transformative… Bukka had absolutely no mercy on the guitar and slammed it like Paul Bunyan wielding an axe.” Block is an award winning acoustic blues artist herself. “By a stroke of great fortune- by the random turn of the wheel of fate- I happened to be in the right place at the right time to meet, spend time, and play music with some of the most incredible rediscovered masters of the blues” she mentions on the inner sleeve, and that is the foundation of this breathtaking series.Keepin’ Outta Trouble is, as the other discs have been for their subjects, a brace of Bukka White songs mixed with a few songs inspired by him. Production by Rory Block and Rob Davis is simple- Rory’s voice, her acoustic guitar (with minimal overdubs) and various homemade percussion items like plastic storage tubs, Quaker Oats boxes and so on. The result is an uncommonly intimate listening experience, as if we were sitting in her living room too as she laid these songs down.Passionate performances of song she obviously loves and an excellent liner essay that explains what Bukka’s music means to her make Rory Block’s Keepin’ Outta Trouble a must-have for country blues fans, but you’ll need to be patient- it isn’t out ‘til November 18th.
ESSENTIAL: Parchman Farm Blues, Fixin’ To Die Blues, Back To Memphis
TIME TO ROLL Monkeyjunk (Stony Plain) *****Monkeyjunk’s 5th album is a step up in a number of ways. Combining elements of the 4 previous releases and even a step up in songwriting help make Time To Roll their best album yet.From the cover photo- an old pic of a stern looking kid on a Big Wheel- to the 10 tracks inside, this disc is loaded with attitude. Produced by the band with Ken Friesen, Time To Roll is also the first Monkeyjunk set to use a bass guitar, as played by Steve Marriner. The sound is thick and swampy rock ‘n’ blues with thoughtful, intelligent lyrics- what’s not to love?MJ’s usual modus operandi is to stretch recording over six months to a year, but Time To Roll came much quicker. ”We were only in the studio for about three weeks all-together and that is BY FAR the fastest and shortest time we’ve ever made a record” says drummer Matt Sobb, “but it was intentional to do it that way. We wanted to push ourselves to work hard and efficiently and focused- to see what we could come up with in a shorter period of time.” What you did, boys, was come up with the goods.Time To Roll s a record of deep grooves and long influences that should share the same shelf as your John Lee Hooker and Meters albums. The only cover song here is an excellent take of Albert King’s classic The Hunter, a song which no doubt also inspired Paul Stanley to write Love Gun. This one of the most satisfying discs I’ve heard all year.
ESSENTIALS: Time To Roll, Undertaker Blues, Fuzzy Poodle