Sunday, July 16, 2017

Lightnin’ Willie: “No Black No White Just Blues” (2017) CD Review

Ah yes, blues is the order of the day, what with the nation having firmly lodged itself in dark and horrid territory and not taking any of the escape routes that seem open to it. People are acting oddly these days, without logic or reason, and things are uncertain all around. But one thing that you can rely on is the blues to lift you from the mire by letting you know you’re not alone. And Lightnin’ Willie’s new album, No Black No White Just Blues, is a perfect choice for that. This album is full of great grooves, excellent work by all musicians involved, and positive vibes so potent you’ll be smiling as the world crumbles around us. This disc features all original material, though much of it has such a familiar ring to it that you’ll be surprised you hadn’t heard it before. And you’ll definitely want to hear it again.

Lightnin’ Willie kicks off the disc with “Can’t Get That Stuff,” a tune with a good groove (reminding me a bit of CCR at times), about how things are changing, and so much you once could get is now gone. There is a playful element to this song. “Selling homemade whisky for a dollar a jar/You can’t get that stuff no more.” My favorite section is that delicious lead part by Doña Oxford on keys. “There was a pretty woman up on top of the hill/Used to let me kiss her for a one-dollar bill/You can’t get that stuff no more.” That’s followed by a fun number titled “Eyes In The Back Of My Head,” a song about a cheating woman – yes, one of those great blues subjects. “Last night you come home and kiss me/I lost all of my hope/Sweet lips taste like cigarettes/Girl, and you don’t even smoke/I can’t take it.” There is some nice work on harmonica.

“Locked In A Prison” has a very cool, late-night vibe, featuring some wonderful, light work on the keyboard, and a smooth and sweet saxophone. And if I’m not mistaken, there is some pride, as well as heartache, in Lightnin’ Willie’s voice as he sings, “She used to love me/She used to call my name.” But guess what? It ends with him telling us he has to stop talking to us because “I hear the sound of her shoes.” In “Note On My Door,” I dig the way the bass shapes this song. This is another blues tune about losing his woman, and in this case being unable to cry. And this one, too, takes a turn at the end. “Birds are calling, she smiles at me/That’s when I realized it was all a bad dream.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Heartache,” which has a delightful groove. Lightnin’ Willie’s voice reminds me a bit of Jim Bianco on this track, in the style and approach. “This woman I was loving/Took my heart when she left/Gotta find my heart/So I have something to break.” And I love the horn. There is something fun about this song, and the guitar work has a friendly feel to it. Another favorite is “Thinking Of You,” a love song with a sweet, delicious classic feel, a looking back at a relationship. “I’d spend all my money/Just to hear your voice one more time.” This song is beautiful. Lightnin’ Willie then leaves us dancing with a good, playful rockin’ tune titled “Shake My Snake.”

CD Track List
  1. Can’t Get That Stuff
  2. Eyes In The Back Of My Head
  3. Locked In A Prison
  4. Sad ‘N’ Blue
  5. Note On My Door
  6. Heartache
  7. Fuss And Fight
  8. Phone Stopped Ringing
  9. Thinking Of You
  10. Shake My Snake

Musicians on this album include Lightnin’ Willie on guitar and vocals, Pete Anderson on bass and harmonica, Michael Murphy on piano and organ, Skip Edwards on organ and accordion, Doña Oxford on piano, Jesper Kristensen on drums, Jerry Olson on drums, Ron Dziubla on saxophone, and Luke Miller on strings.

No Black No White Just Blues was released on June 16, 2017 on Little Dog Records.

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