Chuck Leavell: Back To The Woods

Old-time tribute to the pioneers of blues piano.

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The former Allman Brothers and regular Rolling Stones keyboard player Chuck Leavell makes a return to his roots on this unpretentious tribute to the southern piano masters, covering such influences as Little Brother Montgomery, Leroy Carr and Jesse James.

Chuck sticks to the template but involves pals like Keith Richards and John Mayer, and finds space for a Candi Staton cameo on the soulful The Blues Is All Wrong, a rarity from the hands of Leona Manning. Authenticity aside, the album is a treat. Richards’ acoustic guitar picking on Carr’s Evening Train and the interchange between Keef and relative newcomer Mayer during Otis Spann’s Boots And Shoes are poignant and jolly by turn.

Leavell comes to the fore with a brooding interpretation of Carr’s Low Down Dirty Dog and the sax-fired Losing Hand, whose gospel inflections suit the current treatment’s warm nod towards Ray Charles. Most engaging.

Max Bell

Max Bell worked for the NME during the golden 70s era before running up and down London’s Fleet Street for The Times and all the other hot-metal dailies. A long stint at the Standard and mags like The Face and GQ kept him honest. Later, Record Collector and Classic Rock called.