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Blues Round-up: May 2012

Album Review

Henry Yates on new releases from Mitch Laddie, Simon McBride, Sean Taylor, Larry Miller and Jon Amor Blues Group

Mitch Laddie: Burning Bridges

One of the problems of blues is that it’s seen by many as something played mainly by old-timers with beards. Meet Mitch Laddie, the young bandleader from the North East who makes Joe Bonamassa seem old by comparison. A one-time member of blues guitarist Walter Trout’s band (Trout writes the sleevenotes for Burning Bridges), Laddie has been a blip on the blues circuit radar since his 2010 album This Time Around, but we don’t remember him previously sounding as good as he does on this latest album. Writing, playing, singing and self-producing might seem a little ambitious for a 21-year-old, but Laddie copes, bottling a guitar tone that’s fatter and rougher than a bear’s arse, rolling off some outstanding funk blues on Paper In Your Pocket and Would You, and penning lyrics that go far beyond sixth-form drivel (even his one cover choice shows maturity: a supercharged take on Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues). For guitar anoraks it’s worth hanging around for the finale of Mr Johnson Revisited: a nine-minute virtuoso tear-up that’s almost Satch-worthy. (8/10)

Simon McBride: Nine Lives

With Gary Moore no longer with us, there’s a vacancy for a red-hot Irish guitarist. And Nine Lives suggests McBride is a shoe-in, with Guitarist magazine’s former Young Player Of The Year now sounding like the best night out in town. Rich Man Falling is a killer, and when McBride eclipses Hendrix on Power Of Soul, you almost sense the great man looking down and murmuring: “Bastard”. (7/10)

Sean Taylor: Love Against Death

Let’s slow things down, as they say, with Sean Taylor, a wandering minstrel whose Love Against Death initially seems like the perfect chillax album, until he ruins the cheese course by railing against capitalism. With shades of John Martyn, it’s hanging to the blues by a thread, but we’re prepared to widen the pigeonhole for moments as drop-to-your-knees gorgeous as Absinthe Moon. (7/10)

Larry Miller: On The Edge

From the opening feedback swell and venomous riffing on When Trouble Comes, Miller means business. As ever, the notes are wrenched from the heart, but those circuit-honed chops are secondary to some superior original material that peaks on the reimagining of Need Your Love So Bad that is We Should Be One. Miller is the epitome of the hard-working talent. It’s good to have him back. (6/10)

Jon Amor Blues Group: Jon Amor Blues Group

Jon Amor has past form in 90s Brit-blues sloggers The Hoax, but something has evidently clicked in this line-up, with the band taking just two weeks to nail this debut, and a self-imposed limit of three takes per song means standouts like Juggernaut are more spit than polish. Somewhere between Muddy Waters and the Black Keys, this is an exciting sound. (8/10)

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