Blues Round-up: December 2014

Henry Yates on new releases from Benjamin Booker, Gary Clark Jr, Carl Carlton, JP Soars and Matt Woosey

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Benjamin Booker: Benjamin Booker

On his debut UK tour this summer, Benjamin Booker collected plenty of press cuttings, the New Orleans bandleader’s howling, crooning, fuzz-and-fiddle sets sparking a debate as to whether we were witnessing the new Muddy Waters, Otis Redding or Kurt Cobain. Even so, once the tinnitus subsided, you feared the 25-year-old was a performer who’d be diminished on record – so it’s a pleasure to report his studio debut catches the spark. Booker has you by the throat from Violent Shiver: a production-free stomper that sounds like The Strokes ripping into Chuck Berry, with lyrics that feel important, even if Booker’s delivery is incoherent (the only frustration of this album). Frayed belters like Always Waiting, Chippewa and Wicked Waters are brilliantly visceral, but Booker is pinging with ideas beyond garage-blues, with Spoon Out My Eyeballs setting out as a New Orleans funeral before a key turns in the ignition and it becomes a triple-time R&B tearaway. Booker has opened his album account with a bang. (910)

Gary Clark Jr: Live

Two years since Blak And Blu, this two-disc release keeps Clark’s hand in as the poster-boy of modern blues, while proving he’s a powder-keg of a performer, smouldering on songs like Three O’ Clock Blues, blowing on Don’t Owe You A Thang. Having spiked his sales after that later performance last year, it’s the glowering six-minute stormcloud of Numb that steals the show here. (810)

Carl Carlton: Lights Out In Wonderland

Carlton’s career as guitarist and producer (from Simple Minds to Fun Lovin’ Criminals) presumably accounts for his own scattershot songwriting. Darting between Macca-ish whimsy (Little Men In The Radio), Band-esque roots-rock (Strangers) and cat-house honky-tonk (Sailin’ Shoes), he scatters plenty of hooks, and rarely sounds like a sideman. (710)

JP Soars: Full Moon Night In Memphis

Flat-capped Floridian JP Soars is a far more interesting prospect than the sloggers, channelling metal and gypsy-jazz (alongside such take-it-as-read benchmarks as Muddy Waters), and performing his self-written tunes on cigarbox guitars. He’s a gruffly amusing vocalist, but it’s the stingingly good guitar work that lifts this one. (710)

Matt Woosey: Wildest Dreams

‘Well, don’t you dare compare me to Seasick Steve…’ warns Matt Woosey on Same Old Blues. Only a fool would do so: with his autumnal voice decorating delicate folk-blues finger-twisters like Exactly As We Please and Love Is The Strangest Thing, the Malvern songwriter is a breath of fresh air. Spotifiers should start with the neck-tingler title track, then do the decent thing and buy the album. (810)/o:p

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.