The last Rolling Stones studio album was 11 years ago. They have written some songs and have been in the studio, but no album has been forthcoming. Then in a three day frenzy; they entered a recording studio and recorded a dozen blues tracks. The result was the album Blue & Lonesome, which now holds the distinction of being their only studio release to contain no original Jagger/Richard compositions.
They wisely avoided the early blues songs of the American Delta and focused on releases from the era that had an impact on their music (1950’s and 1960’s).
Little Walter passed away at the age of 38 in 1968 and was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame as a sideman for his virtuosity on the harmonica. His career is resurrected by the Stones as one-third of the songs belong to him. “Just Your Fool,” “Blue And Lonesome,” “I Gotta Go,” and “Hate To See You Gone” as played by the Stones are where rock crosses over into the blues. Watts’ drums and the guitars of Wood and Richard drive the music away from the sparseness of the originals but Jagger’s vocals are spot on.
The Stones could not issue a blues album without a couple of Howlin’ Wolf songs. “Hate To See You Gone” and “Commit A Crime” reach a little deeper into his catalog foe some straight blues interpretations.
The Otis Rush song “I Can’t Quit You Baby” has the style that fits Jagger well and would have been at home on their early albums. Lightning Slim’s “Hoo Doo Blues” is a joyous romp.
The Rolling Stones may not re-invent the blues with Blue & Lonesome but they do re-invent themselves. They prove that you can teach an old dog old tricks.