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Blues Round-up: November 2014

Album Review

Henry Yates on new releases from Jon Allen, Devon Allman, Half Deaf Clatch, Erja Lyytinen and Ruf Records

Jon Allen: Deep River

Jon Allen made his first gentle ripples with 2009’s Dead Man’s Suit and 2011’s Sweet Defeat. In a brash world, this was an opening brace of albums whose careworn blend of country, folk and blues pointedly avoided “gimmicks, beeps and whistles”, while introducing vocals of understated beauty. From the monochrome sleeve onward, third album Deep River doesn’t shout to make its point either. Opening songs Night & Day and Lady Of The Water represent British folk at its most deliciously doomed, with minor-key finger-style laying a lugubrious bed for that astonishing trump-card voice. From there Allen moves into rootsier waters, the drums crashing in for Falling Back and the barrelhouse Fire In My Heart, while the tin-can slide-blues of All The Money’s Gone shows his likeable raucous side. Still, sorrow remains his speciality, and perhaps the most affecting track is the closing man-and-guitar lament Keep Moving On (‘Well, we’re stone-dead, standing still/We’re just sitting ducks waiting for the kill’). (9/10)

Devon Allman: Ragged & Dirty

Feeding both the Royal Southern Brotherhood and his solo career must place heavy demands on Devon Allman as a songwriter, but Ragged & Dirty suggests he’s been holding aces up his sleeve. The best moments here are both ragged and dirty, with Half The Truth stomping its cowboy boots and Ten Million Slaves offering the best showcase for the guitarist’s chippy vocal. (8/10)

Half Deaf Clatch: The Blues Continuum

Nominated in three categories at the recent British Blues Awards, this is a well-timed release for Hull’s self-styled ‘solo acoustic blues machine’ Andrew McLatchie. Clatch’s tools are simple – a slide, a stomp-board, an omnipresent trucker-cap – but his grooves are memorable, with Movin’ On a great walking blues for modern days. (7/10)

Erja Lyytinen: The Sky Is Crying

For a proven songwriter like Erja Lyytinen to return with an Elmore James tribute album smacks a little of creative shrugged-shoulders. Still, The Sky Is Crying is big on heart, played with fizz and helped along by a good tracklisting, with the Finnish slide goddess offsetting the clangingly obvious (Dust My Broom etc) with rarer songs including a bouncy Hand In Hand. (7/10)

Various Artists: 20 Years Anniversary

Germany’s Ruf Records have struck gold consistently since 1994, and this 28-song retrospective pans some of the best nuggets. Label boss Thomas Ruf is plainly big on fresh meat, with Joanne Shaw Taylor, Oli Brown and Laurence Jones all represented, but he’s also coaxed some classic mid-period work from the big boys, including Walter Trout, Savoy Brown and Luther Allison. (8/10)

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