John Mayall review…May 15, 2014…

JOHN MAYALL

A SPECIAL LIFE

FORTY BELOW RECORDS   FBR 006

WHY DID YOU GO LAST NIGHT–SPEAK OF THE DEVIL–THAT’S ALL RIGHT–WORLD GONE CRAZY–FLOODIN’ IN CALIFORNIA–BIG TOWN PLAYBOY–A SPECIAL LIFE–I JUST GOT TO KNOW–HEARTACHE–LIKE A FOOL–JUST A MEMORY

John Mayall is known as the “Godfather Of British Blues,” and rightfully so.  The players who started their careers as a member of his vaunted Bluesbreakers outfit reads like a “who’s who” of contemporary blues-rock.  They include Clapton, McVie, Peter Green, and a pre-Stones Mick Taylor just to name a very few.

For his latest album, “A Special Life,” on Forty Below Records, John traces his storied career back to its roots with a collection of choice covers and originals that delve into blues and Americana.  His current band is well-versed in the sound John wants to create, and consists of Rocky Athas on guitar, Greg Rzab on bass, and Jim Davenport on drums.  Zydeco great C. J. Chenier guests on a few cuts, as well.

John and C. J. start the festivities with a spirited duet on the loping boogie of “Why Did You Go Last Night,” a song made popular by C. J.’s iconic father, Clifton Chenier.   “Speak Of The Devil” is a guitar-fueled tale of domestic abuse, and C. J. returns to add backing vocals on the story of a woman who just won’t stop that midnight creepin’, “I Just Got To Know.”  Rocky unleashes a fiery solo midway thru this one.

The title cut might well be John’s autobiography, as he has indeed led “A Special Life,” not only spreading the word of the blues for himself, but helping to create that “wide-open freeway” for a host of other great British bluesmen.  This one showcases John’s harp chops, and he breaks it out again on an amped-up version of “That’s All Right.’

We had three favorites, too.  The fellows give an authentic, Chicago-styled read on Eddie Taylor’s “Big Town Playboy,” and John closes the set with one of his finest compositions, the piano-heavy slow-blues of “Just A Memory.”  And, in the brooding “World Gone Crazy,” John calls out all the “crazy leaders and non-believers”  responsible for what is sure to be “Reckoning Day.”

We have been fans of John Mayall for many years, and the man just continues to get better with each album.  He strives to keep his sound in step with the times, while making sure everything is cemented in the blues.  “A Special Life” is another top-notch set from a true legend of the blues!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

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