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Blues Round-up: October 2011

Album Review

Henry Yates on new releases from Dana Fuchs, Eric Gales, Karl Demata Band, Dave Alvin and Johnny Winter

Dana Fuchs: Love To Beg

First allow yourself a moronic schoolboy chuckle at her surname. Then grow up, focus, and attempt to digest the talent of Dana Fuchs. There’s a thrilling disparity between the cover photo and the content of second album Love To Beg. To look at, Fuchs is a willowy flower-fairy with a head of Titian curls, like a wayward Joss Stone. Her voice, though, is juke-joint dirty and illicit, evoking Joplin, Jagger, and a fag butt bobbing in a glass of bourbon. Given the surfeit of Plug-ugly, bland-voiced troglodytes who blow through the scene, her looks and larynx alone would probably take Fuchs some way up the ladder. What’s exciting is that she’s backed by a superior wingman and co-writer in Jon Diamond, a session veteran and soulful slide guitarist who turns co-writes like Nothing’s What I Cry For and Golden Eyes into scorching, muscular grooves. Naturally, the blues police will say she isn’t sufficiently grizzled, road-worn or male enough for serious consideration. Fuchs the lot of ’em. (8/10)

Eric Gales: Transformation

All enfants terribles must grow up. And while 36-year-old ex-prodigy Gales has lost a little of the wet-behind-the-ears urgency that made his self-titled debut so magnetic in 1991, he rages against the dying of the light on Double Dippin’ and throws Molotov cocktails on I Pity The Fool. No longer the young buck, Eric Gales is swaggering into a convincing middle-age. (7/10)

Karl Demata Band: Cross The Mountain

Like you, me, the world and his wife, Karl Demata is a mid-to-late-60s British blues nut. And while that means he’s not doing anything earth-shattering in terms of arrangements, he has a superior touch, killer phrasing and a likeable, scruffy guitar tone exemplified on Barefoot Walking Blues. The Circus Never Comes To Town suggests he could push himself further. (6/10)

Dave Alvin: Eleven Eleven

Alvin has it all going for him: a voice like scuffed mahogany, a guitar style that’s far more anarchic than you’d expect from a 55-year-old, and a natural flair for storytelling. From the suicide account of Johnny Ace Is Dead to the dead-eyed motel misery of Harlan County Line (‘Light another menthol to clear my mind'), these are songs to lose yourself in. (7/10)

Johnny Winter: Roots

It’s deflating to hear a pioneer like Winter bow and scrape to the blues masters, and his cover choices are face-clawingly obvious (does the world really need another lurch through Further On Up The Road?). Still, guests including Derek Trucks are not to be sneezed at, and Winter’s solos are reliably scabrous. An enjoyable exercise in wagon-circling. (5/10)

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