Even before I started to become aware of the blues in the mid-1960s, John Mayall was already a veteran of the British blues scene (though by the end of the 60s he had moved to the US, where he’s lived ever since). In fact, his 1967 album The Blues Alone, on which he played all the instruments apart from some drumming contributed by Keef Hartley, was one of the first albums in the idiom to find its way into my record collection. More than 50 years later, with innumerable albums and induction into the Blues Hall Of Fame under his belt, he’s back with another album for Forty Below Records – Nobody Told Me – and it’s very much the quality item you’d expect.
While he toured for a while in 2016-17 as a trio – ie. without a lead guitarist – those of us who’ve admired his ability to attract fine guitarists from Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Peter Green to Buddy Whittington and Rocky Athas by way of the underrated acoustic guitarist Jon Mark will be reassured to note that the album features a long list of classy guest guitarists as well as Billy Watts (rhythm guitar) Greg Rzab (bass guitar), Jay Davenport (drums) and his regular horn section.
Unfortunately, the promo copy and info sheets I received don’t tell me which guitarist played on which track(s), or indeed whether all the compositions are Mayall’s own. (Though apparently ‘Distant Lonesome Train’ was co-written with Joe Bonamassa, so Bonamassa presumably contributed the slide on that track.) But the other guest guitarists include Todd Rundgren, Steven Van Zandt (long associated with Springsteen’s E Street Band), Alex Lifeson (Rush), Larry McCray and Carolyn Wonderland (who recently joined his touring band).
Here’s the track listing:
- ‘What Have I Done Wrong’
- ‘The Moon Is Full’
- ‘Evil And Here To Stay’
- ‘That’s What Love Will Make You Do’
- ‘Distant Lonesome Train’
- ‘Delta Hurricane’
- ‘The Hurt Inside’
- ‘It’s So Tough’
- ‘Like It Like You Do’
- ‘Nobody Told Me’
Mayall was never my favourite blues vocalist, but the years seem to have been kind to him: there’s a gravitas to some of his singing here that I don’t remember from his earlier recordings. His piano, organ and harmonica are fairly laid back here, though there’s a typically Mayall organ break in ‘Delta Hurricane’ that I rather like. The songs are all solidly rooted in blues forms, and while I didn’t notice a classic like ‘Broken Wings’ or ‘Crawling Up A Hill’ or even ‘Walking On Sunset’ or ‘No Reply’, hard-core Mayall fans won’t be disappointed. My guess is that plenty of other people will be attracted by the line-up of guest guitarists, and if electric blues guitar is your thing, there’s plenty to enjoy here.
Artist’s website: www.johnmayall.com/
A very recent live performance by John and his band: