Black To Blues

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Black To Blues
Mascot Records

The blues they had a baby, and they called it rock n roll”, Muddy Waters once claimed. Mr and Mrs Blues were blessed with more than that only child, though, and if genealogical biblical begetting is taken into account, those blues babies have in turn spread their seed far and wide. Just don’t grass to The Blues Police.

Looking back genealogically, nearly anything in the rock catalogue since its morality-threatening mid-50s genesis has the blues in its roots. So, it’s always heartening to hear of contemporary acts paying respectful tribute to their pentatonic DNA, as Black Stone Cherry have done here, via a six-track EP.

Eschewing the temptation to earn extra cred points by digging up and re-vamping an obscure flipside from Washboard Sam, Chris Robertson and his companions have opted to cover electric standards, adding a few dollars to the pockets and estates of Willie Dixon and his contemporaries.

Of course, given the band’s hard rock background, it’s unfair to expect anything other than pounding rhythms, buzz-saw guitars, and larynx-lacerating vocals. All of those are almost ever-present, but a subtle drop-out adds an unexpected dynamic to Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Built For Comfort’, ‘Champagne & Reefer’ has almost a psych edge with its Hendrix riffing and spacey vocals. The frenzied blues harp is a welcome touch as are the gospel harmonies heard again on the ascending chord pattern of ‘Palace Of The King’.

The supernatural menace inherent in ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ is more overt than in Muddy’s original, but it is the brooding nature of the rhythm in addition to Robertson’s vocals which create this atmosphere, and I believe there are even snatches of horns bubbling under. ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’, again with a nagging brass sound somewhere in the mix, is pretty much a re-tread of Cream’s already ultra-heavy Wheels Of Fire take. Leaving perfection untroubled is A Very Good Thing.

Ending with the jerking lope of a slide-saturated ‘I Want To Be Loved’, it’s obvious that this has been a labour of love for contemporary rock heroes who have respect for their forefathers. They sound like they’re having a fun time in so doing, and their catalogue has now been enhanced by high-quality live encore possibilities.

Date added: Aug 08, 2017

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