Tag Archives: Mississippi Fred McDowell

53. MARTIN McNEILL “Lately I’ve Let Things Slide” (Bottleneck Blues, 2015)

'Lately I've Let Things Slide' (Photo: PTMQ)

‘Lately I’ve Let Things Slide’ (Photo: PTMQ)

Martin McNeill is a name that my regular readers will know by now. His new album Lately I’ve Let Things Slide, is the second of two excellent new acoustic Blues albums that I’ve been sent for review recently – the other being King Rollo’s Easy Street  (see my previous review #52). In fact, I was pleasantly surprised when Martin said that he had an album on CD to send me, because I didn’t even know he’d been in the studio! Back in January when I spoke to him at a  Milton And Farrow gig (see my review #33), he said that he’d never really been too involved with recording – although he had released an earlier album about fifteen years ago (which I haven’t heard). Well I’m glad to say that his remarkable talents are on record once more with the release of this fine collection.

There are twelve tracks on the album – mostly covers; but every one reworked in Martin’s inimitable style. One song however, is penned by Martin himself. He sings all vocals; and plays all guitars and harmonica. The title is well-chosen, as bottleneck slide is what this opus is all about – Martin being a master of the art.

The title track starts us off. Its a sad, yet somehow amusing, Nick Lowe song that Martin has given a Blues-style make-over, with the bottleneck slide technique for which he is well known. It works well; and prefigures what’s to come.

The second track, the old Blues classic ‘You Gotta Move’, (an old classic made famous by Mississippi Fred McDowell), has coincidentally been included in both Martin’s and Rollo’s new albums. And as I wrote in the previous Blog entry, although many have covered the song, each has done so in their own distinctive way. Certainly, Martin’s version here, can also be added to the long list of fine covers of this old Blues number – but no; I won’t be drawn into which I prefer!

(Photo: PTMQ)

Bottleneck slide maestro Martin McNeill at Peggy Sue’s Music Bar, Essex in April 2015.(Photo: PTMQ)

‘On The Road Again’ is of course the old Floyd Jones song made famous by Canned Heat back in ’67. Martin has reworked it; and its good. And I must say I prefer it to many other versions (including even the Canned Heat one – because I never really liked the vocals!).

Keb Mo (real name: Kevin Moore) is the writer behind the next song ‘Keep It Simple’. I must admit I’m not too familiar with his work; but thanks to Martin I’m now a little wiser!  Lovely  sound on the lead on this one. And another old classic, the RL Burnside song ‘Going Down South’ gets the MM treatment next!

‘Pickin’ The Blues’ is a chirpy little instrumental; again covered by many – including the greatest of all slide guitarists – the legendary Elmore James. But Martin does the old master proud on this one. This is followed by two more oft-covered old staples: ‘Rain Down Tears’; and   ‘Waiting For My Baby’ (another McDowell number).

‘Mad With me’ is the one song in this collection that is penned by McNeill himself; and its the only chance we have of seeing how deeply all this Blues has entered his psyche! And to be honest, if i didn’t know it was a McNeill song, I’d assume it was an oldie that I didn’t know! So he has certainly showed himself to be a good song-writer on the strength of this one. He also demonstrates that he’s a decent Harp player too. It compliments the oldies nicely!

The Gary Nicholson / Guy Clark  penned ‘Leap Of Faith’; and another Keb Mo song ‘I’m On Your Side’ are up next. Both covers are well arranged and satisfying to hear – nice Harmonica again on the latter. Then finally two old songs are cleverly fused together: the haunting instrumental ‘Paris Texas’ by Ry Cooder; and Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ (without the lyric).

Martin’s vocals are unusual. He manages to pull off the most unlikely thing of singing Blues songs with an English accent – but still making it sound right! I don’t know of anyone else who can do this. He has a relaxing voice and easy, clear vocal style too. Quite pleasant to listen to.

The album was recorded by Jon Webber at JWS Studios. The cover is of the card and plastic gate-fold type which I prefer; with photos by Tim Hubbard and The Dim Locator; plus a basic track listing with writer credits.

If you like a bit of acoustic Blues, then you’ll love both this album and King Rollo’s too; and I can highly recommend them both. I’m looking forward to seeing both of these quite remarkable Bluesmen again at gigs ASAP. Martin regularly hosts Monday Blues At Peggy Sue’s Music Bar in Leigh-On-Sea in Essex with a different special guest every week. For all his other gigs (including with his band Bottleneck Blues), see his website…….

 http://www.martinmcneill.co.uk/

 PTMQ

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52. KING ROLLO “Easy Street” (Disques Classiques, 2015)

KING ROLLO's 'Easy Street' (Photo courtesy of King Rollo)

KING ROLLO’s ‘Easy Street’ (Image: courtesy of King Rollo)

I was immediately interested when I learned from the wonderful Blues songstress  Ruby Tiger, that her dear friend and collaborator King Rollo had just released a solo album entitled Easy Street. Interested because last July, I met Rollo when Ruby kindly invited me to  her debut  EP launch party in Chichester, Sussex (see my blog #16), while he was still the guitarist with her band The Revelators; and I was very impressed by his guitar playing style – he’s a really nice bloke too!

Now Rollo is a self-confessed Bluesman through and through – and told me at that same gig, that ‘…if its got more than three chords, I want paying extra!’ He was jesting of course; as there is far more to this veteran guitarist / singer / song-writer, than a  I-IV-V  12-Bar chord sequence! Anyone listening to the album would testify to that straight away.

Easy Street is a collection of eleven acoustic-based Blues / bluesy songs, mostly penned by the man himself, but with a few fine covers thrown in too. Rollo sings and plays all instruments (except drums on Track 10; by Dr. A).

The title track starts the album. Its an upbeat lively little number guaranteed to get your feet tapping; and has a nice electric lead. ‘Like A Dog’ follows. I’m guessing its a bit tongue-in-cheek lyrically – I liked it a lot. An arrangement of ‘Diving Duck’ is next. I’ve heard lots of versions of this old classic over the years – it seems everyone’s had a go at it – but Rollo puts his own unique stamp on it firmly enough, that’s for sure.

Rollo, king of acoustic Blues! (Photo: Alan White)

Rollo, king of acoustic Blues! (Photo: Alan White)

A cover of a JB Lenoir song ‘The Whale Swallowed Jonah’ is next up. Again, Rollo has made it his own to a great extent.  Then its ‘On The Road’ for Track 5. There’s a lovely bit of bottleneck slide-work on this one, which lends the right ambience to this hobo-ish song.

‘A Need’ is a beautiful little Folky tune with a Bluesy feel about it. Lovely slide again too. In contrast to this, ‘The Back Slap Boogie’ is a fun Funky number, which sounds a bit like a parody of ‘The Hokey-Cokey’! Its the longest track in the collection too.

‘Walk With Me’ surprised me with its Spanish guitar style intro. Its a song which sounds like its musical influences are from European Folk; yet still Rollo’s vocals have a Blues inflection about them that makes it unique.

‘You Gotta Move’ is another old Blues staple which has been covered by everyone from Mississippi Fred McDowell, through The Stones, to Aerosmith. (I don’t even know who wrote it originally!) But of course, each artist is singular in their interpretation; and Rollo’s version is unique too.

Mark Knopfler’s ‘Fade To Black’ is a wonderful laid-back Blues; and it has been given a right royal King Rollo make-over here; with some excellent guitar work – a fine cover indeed. Finally, the collection ends with ‘Time In My Life’. It is a Rollo tune; more in the style of a Chicago Blues than an acoustic Delta song. Nice electric lead work; and a great finish to the album.

I’ve not seen a hard copy of the album, having had only a download to work with, so I can’t comment on the CD case. The album was recorded and mastered at Crunchtime in Portsmouth; and produced by Rollo himself.  The very charming cover artwork is by Juliet Asher. All round; a fine job has been done on Easy Street.

This is the first of two excellent, and brand new acoustic Blues albums that I’ve been sent for review recently – the next being Martin McNeill’s Lately I’ve Let Things Slide which will be the subject of my next Blog: #53. (Coincidently, Martin also covers ‘You Gotta Move’).   PTMQ

Here is a link to King Rollo’s website…. http://www.king-rollo.co.uk/