Blues Round-up: December 2011

Henry Yates on new releases from Will Scott, Krissy Matthews, Johnny Hiland, Jay Tamkin and John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers

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Will Scott: Keystone Crossing

If Never Mind The Bollocks is the yin, then Will Scott’s Keystone Crossing is the yang: a smouldering bonfire of a record that rarely breaks out of its funeral-march tempo, offers zero visceral thrills, or indeed any negligible light relief beyond the fact the guitarist is called Scrote (Was it perhaps a little childish of us to giggle at that?). The slow-burning vibe will ask too much of the iPod generation, but persist and you’ll be drawn into a world of small-town America, narrated in solemn Cash-like tones, bolstered by smoke-blackened lyrics and some stunning understated melodies. The closest modern comparison is Otis Taylor, and while Scott isn’t yet in that league, he tingles the neck hairs on White River Rising, bottles palpable sorrow on Broken Arrow and evokes a dying cowboy slow-dancing with his child bride on It Ain’t Gonna Rain. It’s not perfect – Scott will need to find another gear, and closing track You Are The One I Love is so harshly mixed that it’s painful to listen to – but when Keystone Crossing is good, it’s gorgeous. (710)

Krissy Matthews: Hit The Rock

Damn you, Krissy Matthews. Damn you for your Anglo-Scandinavian good looks, unblemished youth and over-developed talent. Still in his teens, there’s man-size potential on the gossamer touch of Back On The Road and the masterful solo that crunches in halfway through Tell Me, although his lyrics are still catching up (on Time Machine he imagines travelling back to 1966, with toe-curling results). (710)

Johnny Hiland: All Fired Up

Like a less-macabre John 5, Hiland’s chicken-picked country-blues instrumentals might sound like the recipe for masturbatory disaster, but the blind virtuoso has soul in spades, and lets you apply your own emotional content to these bouncy cuts. But sadly when he finally does pipe up – on the final two bonus ‘vocal’ tracks – it confirms that maybe his fingers do the best talking. (610)

Jay Tamkin: Alibi

It’s always hard when the kids leave the nest. Jay Tamkin’s Sorted was a strong debut back in 2009, and while he remains a gifted songwriter, aside from the storming You’ve Got The Heart, his vibe is drifting from the blues towards more indiefied waters, complete with lyrics about, y’know, going out and stuff. He’ll probably get more girls this way, but he’s broken this hack’s heart. (510)

John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers: In The Shadow Of Legends

As usual with Mayall, everyone’s craning their necks for the sidemen, and this New Jersey set from 1982 has plenty of stardust, with Mick Taylor and John McVie bolstering the band and guests including Albert King and Buddy Guy. It’s generally safe material, but this much talent was never going to tank too badly. (510)

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.