Something Borrowed Something
Sanity Check Musec
From the get-go, it’s clear that this is a Blues album, and a very good one at that. What may not so quickly be clear is that this is a Blue album. In the world of American music, Blue is something very special. This many-facetted man with one name slips across the spectrum of musical genres like a chameleon-spirit, constantly mutating into something he has never been before. The quality of everything he does ranges from near-excellent to something far beyond what we might normally consider excellent, and his work is always original and creative. This release is no exception.
Blue is a fringe artist, the sort that appeals to a niche audience who can appreciate his very eclectic, even eccentric approach to music and performance. In a way, that’s a shame. After releasing wonderful, quirky independent records for well over fifteen years, Blue should by now be an American icon. Blue’s work epitomizes the drive and creativity upon which America prides itself. Unfortunately, American audiences seem to eschew the creative in favour of what is safe and mundane.
The performances on this set are powerful. Blue puts everything he has into his performance, driving it with guts and emotion that’s sure to shake up even the most blasé listener. This is Blues with feeling. The sound is big and driven, rocking electric Blues, yet it has the solid emotive feel of the old field-recordings of classic blues artists. To hear this music is an experience not to be missed.
Blue is a musical man of all seasons. He writes, records, sings, plays, and films his music and manages to achieve a level of excellence in about everything he does. Each CD he releases is a unified work of art yet is different than anything he has done before or since. The Blue experience is constantly changing and constantly a surprise.
Something Borrowed Something presents the very best of Blue. The lyrics are exceptional. The singing voice is big, powerful and dramatic. The guitar work rivals the best you’ve heard anywhere. The orchestrations are full and gutsy, driving the songs forward with unstoppable energy.
Back to back rockers “Fistful of Bartabs” and “My Drinkin’” have a lot of the feel of the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” or “L. A. Woman” but with the added energy to be heard in the later interpretation of “Roadhouse Blues” by Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush. In the midst of this L.A. sound, it’s strange to hear Blue do the spoken bits in accents ranging from Brit to American-midwest to something undefinable.
Blue’s interpretation of Lieber and Stoller’s “Hound Dog” is nothing less than inspired. In this arrangement, Blue manages to return to the song the down-home blues-bar feeling of the original Big Mama Thornton recording but retain the hard rock and roll drive of Elvis Presley’s otherwise watered-down version.
With its jumpy a capella opening, “Hoodoo Love” comes as a surprise every time. The sound is very swampy in a New Orleans sort of way, with a hard edged vocal and very edgy instrumentals.
Blue’s guitar on this release ranges from classic blues-picking you might have heard on some Alan Lomax field-recording through hard rocking blues lines that might have come out of Chicago in mid-century to creative blues licks that make Hendrix pale by comparison.
The vocals are incomparable. Blue has a powerful voice, which puts him ‘way ahead of the game, but he’s also mastered the craft of singing and performing the words of his stories. Most important is that Blue seems to dig right down to the heart of the story and draw out every drop of emotion.
Something Borrowed Something is an experience not to be missed. This is Blue at his best, pouring everything he’s got into an outstanding performance of original blues that revives the Blues tradition and makes it current and relevant. This release is definitely recommended listening.
Those who may be interested may find additional information about Blue at his band website. Unfortunately, the web site is currently being revised, so an number of links just lead to “place holder” pages. If you go to Sound Bytes, you can read my earlier review of Blue’s Holly’s Song, released in 2000.
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