GARY CAIN – Outside The Lines (Bluestown Music)

Outside The LinesOutside The Lines is the third album from blues (well, mostly blues) virtuoso Gary Cain. Cain was born in Canada but is now based in Austin.  He sings, writes songs – and boy does he play guitar (I may have adopted that line).

Sometimes an album comes through to review and you know nothing of the background. This is one of them. Sometimes you think, this is pretty good. This is one of them. But you’re never quite sure.

So when a passing guitarist-vocalist wanders past, you say, “What do you reckon to this?”. I’d written down two words “raw” and “edgy”; my first draft of this review began, “I rather like this” so I was intrigued to hear the judgement of someone who’s been playing and producing for over forty years. Unprompted, and not knowing what I’d written on my scrap of paper, my passing friend (more from a rock tradition than specifically folk or blues) listened to some of the tracks and said, “It’s raw, it’s got an edge. I like it”. OK, then, that’s what it is.

There are ten tracks on the album. The opening track, ‘Ain’t Got The Blues’ hits you – scuzzy, staccato, against Cain’s vocal. ‘Resting On My Mind’ is melodic, soul as much as blues. There’s breadth here, then, as well as power. ‘Pretty’ is up tempo, almost snarly to a lyric “You’re pretty … pretty, pretty crazy”. ‘Ain’t Giving Up’ is an odd counterpoint between a gentle-ish vocal, some decent flourish on the lead guitar chops – and, with its deep devil riff, a reminder that Sabbath owe something to the Blues. ‘Attitude’ is a description as much as a title.

‘Blues Enough For You’ is a classic electric blues arrangement you can imagine being extemporised live for a series of lengthy breaks. ‘Far From Home’ is instrumental, it’s bluesy, but also harking back to Southern Rock on a track I’ve had on repeat. ‘Lie To Me’ is another track that spits with attitude, this time allied to a catchy refrain of the title which would probably leave you arms in the air with the rest of the crowd at a gig. ‘I Don’t Care’ extends the style a little further with its funky playing. ‘Keep On Walking’ closes the album, it’s more devil music, this time with some nifty, and lengthy, flourishes in the middle of a nearly seven-minute track. It’s another track that you could play live for double the length of time and no-one would be wanting it to finish.

Cain explains that his style comes from long practice sessions when he was young, “Back then it’s all I would do some days – often 13, 14 hours a day. I’d have to be reminded to eat. For as long as I can remember, it’s been a huge part of who I am.”

As for live music, you can catch Cain in Texas at the moment but there’s not a huge number of Events in the forward planner on his webpage. It’s a couple of years since Cain played in the UK, but there’s a few venues and Blues Festivals that would suit his style if he’s thinking of coming this way again.

Outside the Lines, then, is raw, it’s edgy, the playing is fluent, it’s based on years of hard practice, the band work tightly together. Play the album and find out for yourself; play the album loud, it’s even better.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘Ain’t Got The Blues’:

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