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Blues Round-up: March 2016

Henry Yates on new releases from Bonnie Raitt, Doug Hream Blunt, Grainne Duffy, Henri Herbert and The James Hunter Six

Bonnie Raitt: Dig In Deep

If 2012’s Slipstream announced Bonnie Raitt’s return from a wretched hiatus – the post-millennium saw her lose both parents, a brother and a best friend in rapid succession – then Dig In Deep finds the first lady of slide-blues making up for lost time as a creative force. Five original songwriting credits is an unprecedented haul for a woman often content as an interpreter. But they’re the standouts here.

A noted social activist, Raitt is as fiery as her barnet on The Comin’ Round Is Going Through, scorching a cosseted politician over Stonesy guitars, while Unintended Consequence Of Love’s drawling soul skewers a relationship past its sell-by date, with Raitt’s frustration boiling over into a tetchy solo. The gospel fizz of What You’re Doin’ To Me celebrates a late-bloom romance, while closer The Ones We Couldn’t Be acknowledges the ultimate futility of such a venture; Raitt singing of ‘wrapping the dark around me’ over bereft piano. Never mind dig in deep: this is an emotional excavation. (810)

Doug Hream Blunt: My Name Is Doug Hream Blunt

A cult hero much-cited by crate-rifling aficionados, Doug Hream Blunt released one album and an EP in the 80s before sinking into oblivion. Luaka Bop have gathered the San Franciscan’s scant material, and it’s an intriguing brew: Fly Guy mixing smoothie soul and wig-out flute, and Gentle Persuasion throbbing with a curious leery melancholia. (710)

Grainne Duffy: Live

Ulster bandleader Duffy is a quadruple threat of voice, chops, songs and sass. Recorded in Germany, Live gets all those strengths across, with moments such as What Am I Supposed To Do and Reason To Be leaving the edges on and stopping the studio versions. Like all the best live albums, it’s a means to an end, liable to cattle-prod you into attending a Duffy show for yourself. (710)

Henri Herbert: Wired EP

Former joanna-mangler for The Jim Jones Revue, Herbert’s debut EP trades the fingers-on-fire mania for some classy, considered songwriting. Original cuts like Pocket Venus are a pitch-perfect tip of the hat to Sun Records, and when the piano man rolls through the wistful closer I Don’t Know Where I’ve Gone, you’ll want to pour a bourbon and lean on his lid. (810)

The James Hunter Six: Hold On!

The Essex R&B nearlyman and sometime casual labourer has fought every step of the way, but Hold On! sounds utterly effortless: an effervescent streak of soul, bossa nova and rumba tunes, fronted by a voice so head-turningly, timelessly good that it screams out for a wider audience. Let’s not dress it up: this is simple, straight-up brilliant. (810)