Blues Round-up: April 2013

Henry Yates on new releases from Buddy Guy, Alive, Julian Sas, Erja Lyytinen and Martin Harley

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Buddy Guy: Live At Legends

On the face of it, there are more worthy releases than this one: a show recorded three years ago, performed on the home turf of his own Chicago club, by a veteran widely considered to have lost the fire from his belly. Those are hardly words that are going to prompt feverishly ripped cellophane and a sprint to the CD player. As it turns out, Live At Legends is worth the price of admission. It’s not so much the sense of an era ending (although there’s certainly a bit of that, this being the final recording from the iconic venue’s original location), it’s more the realisation that, in his 70s, Guy is still a blisteringly exciting performer when he turns it on. From the opening riot of Best Damn Fool, the guitarist is performing without a safety net. And if there’s been a more savage solo this year than the one on Damn Right I Got The Blues, we haven’t heard it. “The baddest motherfucker in town!” the compere hollers. And nobody’s arguing. (810)

Various Artists: Alive At The Deep Blues Fest

You can practically smell the chicken wings and body odour while spinning this highlights package of Alive’s roster from last summer’s Fest in Minnesota. Left Lane Cruiser bring their savagery to the stage convincingly, and Henry’s Funeral Shoe kick out the front row’s teeth, but it’s John The Conqueror’s Three More that really flaps the trouser-legs. (710)

Julian Sas: Bound To Roll

From the home of straightforward blues comes the rock-solid Julian Sas, a Dutch bandleader whose eighth album, Bound To Roll, suggests he’s a great night out, if not a ground-breaker. Meaty and no-nonsense material abounds but Sas can make that guitar sting, as he proves both on covers of Shadow Play and Highway 61 Revisited, and the highlight, his own wah-wah-powered Mercy. (610)

Erja Lyytinen: Forbidden Fruit

The glamourpuss sleeve of this album from Erja Lyytinen, the pride of the Finnish blues scene, belies one of best slide players on that scene. There’s a country twang to Joyful Misery, and an infectious shuffle in the shape of Hold On Together, while Death Letter gives the old walking blues format a fresh lick of mojo. Remember the name (and learn how to pronounce it). (710)

Martin Harley: Mojo Fix

The expert slide work suggests a Delta lifer with a face like a chewed toffee; the sleeve reveals a clean-cut Welshman, albeit one who’s slogged through five albums to date. Somehow he’s managed to evade our Blues Round-up, but Harley is a class act, both on the threatening redneck grizzle of Outlaw and light-as-air stunners like Treading Water. Massively accomplished stuff. (810)

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.