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Blues Round-up: July 2015

Henry Yates on new releases from Sonny Landreth, Royal Southern Brotherhood, Datura 4, The Kentucky Headhunters and Heartless Bastards

Sonny Landreth: Bound By The Blues

After 2012’s genre-straddling Elemental Journey – an instrumental fusion complete with bells, whistles and kitchen sink – this album finds Landreth sticking a rusty pin in his own grandiosity and returning to his creative ground zero. Partly, explains the professorial southerner, this is down to badgering from the fans – “They keep asking me: ‘When are you going to do another blues album?’” – but he’s patently enjoying the homecoming.

Landreth’s trump card remains that jaw-dropping slide-guitar technique. Here, his crunching, keening, ants-in-the-pants phrasing makes even mildewed standards like Dust My Broom, Key To The Highway and Walkin’ Blues sound vital, and he sprinkles fairy dust on originals such as The High Side and the barn-burning finale Simcoe Street.

Landreth is singing again – decently, too – but in truth he hardly needs to when he’s able to soothe and strangle his instrument to such an expressive degree. Bound by the blues Landreth might be, but those handcuffs are a mighty good fit. (910)

Royal Southern Brotherhood: Don’t Look Back: The Muscle Shoals Sessions

Some feared the balls would be cut off the Brotherhood by the departures of founding guitarists Mike Zito and Devon Allman. But newbies Bart Walker and Tyrone Vaughan drive a defiant return, with highlights like the foot-down Reach My Goal and the squelchy funk of The Big Greasy suggesting another golden era. (810)

Datura 4: Demon Blues

Another belter from the Alive stable. The devil chicks cavorting on a blood-spattered sleeve, and opener Out With The Tide, suggest route-one Aussie rock done adroitly, but Demon Blues gets more interesting on psychedelia-tinged boogies like Another Planet and Journey Home, frontman Dom Mariani taking his interplanetary vocal cues from Silver Machine et al. (710)

The Kentucky Headhunters with Johnnie Johnson: Meet Me In Bluesland

Two years before his death in 2005, Chuck Berry’s fêted keysman Johnnie Johnson met up for a jam with the Kentucky Headhunters. To hear them joust on cuts like Little Queenie is a joy, and the bonhomie only makes it more poignant when Johnson croaks his final studio vocal on She’s Got To Have It. (810)

Heartless Bastards: Restless Ones

Misleadingly named – and erroneously lumped in with The Black Keys after their early associations – the Cincinnati four-piece further explore their distinct voice on album No.5. From the garage squall of Wind Up Bird to the piano clank of Into The Light, they’re a light-footed prospect, made still more intriguing by Erika Wennerstrom’s curiously detached vocal. (710)/o:p

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