Three For The Road By John Mayall

February 17, 2019

John Mayall just keeps rolling along. Now in his early 80’s, he maintains an extensive concert and recording schedule.

Mayall’s new live album, Three For The Road, began two years ago when guitarist Rocky Athas missed a concert due to plane connections. Forced to play as a trio, John Mayall decided to continue within that context. His new album was recorded at two concerts in Germany during March of 2017.

Bassist Greg Rzab and drummer Jay Davenport have been with Mayall for a decade and their chemistry together is excellent. Mayall, vocals, keyboards, and harmonica, is more in the limelight than he has been in years. His music has always had a guitar focus but now his keyboards are central and it is a new and welcome direction for an artist whose career has passed the 50 year mark.

The nine tracks include 7 covers by classic blues artists and two original Mayall concert favorites. They all run from 5 to 11 minutes, so their is a lot of room for experimentation and improvisation.

Mayall’s “Streamline” and “Lonely Feelings” have been concert staples for some time but here they take on new textures within the trio format. “Congo Square” at 11 minutes and “Tears Came Rollin’ Down” at nine plus minutes are excellent examples of how three instruments can interact over an extended period of time.

Mayall’s voice may have lost a little over time but it is still an effective blues instrument.

John Mayall is travelling a different road in the twilight of his career, which is not an easy thing for a veteran artist. Three For The Road is an album well-worth exploring.

The Focus Family Album By Focus

February 17, 2019

Focus was, and sometimes still is, a Dutch progressive rock band who found success in the United States during the first half of the 1970’s. Formed in the late 1960’s by Thijs Van Leer; their early line-up included guitar virtuoso Jan Akkerman. Albums such as Moving Waves (1972), Focus 3 (1971), and Hamburger Concerto (1974) sold several million copies in the United States and produced the quirky hit single “Hocus Pocus.”

The Focus Family Album is a two-disc, 20 track CD that includes 10 tracks by the band and 10 tracks by various current and former members; hence the name of the album.

The group tracks are modern era in origin, originally recorded for several different projects. The represent the band’s current approach and are competent progressive rock.

The solo tracks are more eclectic and experimental. How good they are depends on the listeners ability to stretch their minds.

Individual solos dominate the individual band members contributions. Pierre van der Linden presents two tracks from his experimental Drum Poetry album.  Band leader This van Leer donates two flute pieces that run counter to the drum tracks. “Hazel” is an acoustic guitar piece by Menno Gootjes that demonstrates his precise style. Udo Pannekeet brings a unique approach to his bass playing through the use of a fretless bass on “Song For Yaminah” and a six string bass on “Anaya.”

The album is not a cohesive affair. The full band tracks have a finished feel, while the individual pieces find the members experimenting and, in some cases, doodling on their own. In many ways it is the band deconstructed.

The Focus Family Album is a niche release for hard core fans of the band. If you want to experience their full power and creativity, check out their 1970 releases.

The Luckiest Man By Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters

February 17, 2019

Any new release by Ronnie Earl and his Broadcasters is a must listen for any blues aficionado and The Luckiest Man is no exception.

The album is one of loss and faith; both explored within the context of the blues. The passing of his long time friend and bass player bandmate Jim Mouradian has left an imprint on his latest album of music. “Death Have No Mercy is a fitting tribute to hos lost friend, while “Never Gonna Break My Faith” deals with recovery and moving on.

He returns with his past with the ten minute “Long Lost Conversation.” A Number of his old bandmates are along for the ride, including vocalist/bassist Sugar Ray Norcia.

From the opening cover of “Ain’t That Loving You Baby,” he quickly demonstrates why he is considered on of the best traditional blues guitarists working today.

The Luckiest Man is an album of how the blues should always be.