Blues Round-up: Summer 2015

Henry Yates on new releases from Melody Gardot, Delta Deep, John J Presley, Songhoy Blues and Reuben James Richards

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Melody Gardot: Currency Of Man

On this, her fourth album, Melody Gardot’s music still has the unique effect of making the listener feel 50 per cent cooler just by association. Slinking along the tightrope between jazz, blues and hip-hop, behind perennial dark glasses, the Philadelphia vocalist delivers each couplet like an exhaled smoke ring and ensures her material is mesmeric without actually, y’know, going anywhere in particular./o:p

In interview, Gardot has cited the importance of sound. And producer Larry Klein has played a blinder. The cinematic strut of It Gonna Come sets the temperature, horns and scuttled drums jousting with a vocal so detached it makes Nico sound positively bushy-tailed. Don’t Misunderstand is a torch song whispered in your ear, while If Ever I Recall Your Face is a song on the verge of tears. Among these it’s the gospel-fuzz of Preacherman and the Shaft-esque Same To You – all swirling wah and brass jabs – that you’ll have on repeat. Somewhere, Quentin Tarantino is frantically speed-dialling Gardot to suggest a soundtrack. (810)/o:p

Delta Deep: Delta Deep

Adroitly slipping his pigeonhole here is Def Leppard’s Phil Collen, whose unexpected blues debut alongside vocalist Debbi Blackwell-Cook is good enough to make the cat-calls stick in your throat. Collen has real feel for this stuff. And his address book helps, with Paul Cook drafted on drums, Joe Elliott lifting Mistreated and David Coverdale sandblasting Private Number. (710)

John J Presley: White Ink

John J Presley’s scabrous early singles Honeybee and Left pricked up our ears; this debut EP gives us more meat to get the measure of the Birmingham bluesman. White Ink was tracked in just eight hours at the all-analogue luddite paradise Toe Rag Studios. And sounds like it, too, with sparse, spit-and-gristle cuts such as Come To Me and Ill At Ease buzzing with malevolent energy. (710)

Songhoy Blues: Music In Exile

Displaced from northern Mali by Islamic extremists in 2012, Songhoy Blues bring a joyful defiance to Music In Exile that transcends the language barrier. Desert Melodie rides on snake-charmer chants and rolling acoustic grooves and Nick is a dusty John Lee Hooker-ish groove, but the pick is Mali’s trance-inducing beauty. It’s world music with bite, not just for WOMAD bores. (710)

Reuben James Richards: About Time

Two decades since he almost went stratospheric with the classic single Hold On My Heart, Richards’ world-class vocal hasn’t lost a lick of soul. Tracks like We’ll Always Be Together and A.S.A.P. fizz with a joy that can’t be faked, helped out by brass money-licks that evoke a great lost Muscle Shoals session – not bad, considering it was tracked in Norfolk. (710)/o:p

Classic Rock 213: New Albums

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.