JOHN MAYALL– Nobody Told Me (Forty Below Records FBR 022)

Nobody Told MeEven 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:

  1. ‘What Have I Done Wrong’
  2. ‘The Moon Is Full’
  3. ‘Evil And Here To Stay’
  4. ‘That’s What Love Will Make You Do’
  5. ‘Distant Lonesome Train’
  6. ‘Delta Hurricane’
  7. ‘The Hurt Inside’
  8. ‘It’s So Tough’
  9. ‘Like It Like You Do’
  10. ‘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.

David Harley

Artist’s website: www.johnmayall.com/

A very recent live performance by John and his band:

John Mayall announces new album

John Mayall

On February 22nd 2019 Forty Below Records will release Nobody Told Me, the new studio album from The Godfather of British Blues, John Mayall, at the tender age of 84.

As with his last handful of albums, Mayall again shares production duties with Forty Below Founder Eric Corne who also handles engineering and mixing duties.

The album was recorded at The Foo Fighters’ Studio 606 on the same legendary Sound City Neve console his protégés from Fleetwood Mac used to record the best-selling Rumors album.

Corne has heavily featured Mayall’s instrumental skills on keyboards and harmonica on the past few studio albums. On this new record the two decided to enlist a very impressive and diverse list of guest guitarists, all personal favourites of Mayall’s including Todd Rundgren, Little Steven Van Zandt of The E Street Band, Alex Lifeson from Rush, Joe Bonamassa, Larry McCray and Carolyn Wonderland who will be joining the band on tour. Also, on hand are the dynamic Chicago rhythm section of Greg Rzab on bass guitar and Jay Davenport on drums, along with Billy Watts (Lucinda Williams) on rhythm guitar and Mayall’s regular horn section, moonlighting from their day job in The Late Show with Conan O’Brien’s house band.

“This project has been a true labour of love for me and I can’t wait for people to hear the fireworks that took place,” beams Mayall. Nobody Told Me is an apt title for the blues icon who suffered a recent unexpected health scare shortly after recording the album. But, the seemingly ageless road dog, who famously takes no days off and carries his own gear on tour, has been given a clean bill of health and plans to return to his usual gruelling touring schedule to support the release.

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Artist’s website: johnmayall.com

‘(They Call It) Stormy Monday – live:

Mystic Pinball – JOHN HIATT

JOHN HIATT, one of America’s foremost singer-songwriters, has made a swift return to the recording fray by way of a brand new album, entitled MYSTIC PINBALL

MYSTIC PINBALL comprises twelve new Hiatt originals, and maintains the high standards that Hiatt achieved with last year’s excellent Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns. In fact, the success of that album infused Hiatt with a real sense of urgency, and in Mystic Pinball has came up with yet more corroborative evidence that the man is at a new creative peak. Hiatt, accompanied by his backing crew The Combo – and let’s name-check ‘em here: Doug Lancio (electric guitar, mandolin, Dobro), Kenneth Blevins (drums and percussion) and Patrick O’Hearn (bass) – attacks the even dozen songs with a relish and energetic zeal that will not be denied – ranging from the Gospel-tinged Rock Action of the opener, We’re Alright Now, through to the most tender of ballads in the shape of No Wicked Grin, across an ever-impressive stylistic range – truly, the Man and Band are on fire.

Hiatt returned to the great producer Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley for the production seat – the man is one of America’s hottest sound talents, having graced recordings by the likes of Aerosmith and Joe Bonamassa, but here Shirley shows the same deft touch that he applied to Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns, crafting backing tracks that frame Hiatt’s superb songs with a flair and dynamic intensity that enhances the potency of the songs without needless clutter. Shirley adds subtle tonal colour and imaginative shadings to tracks such as the brittle, bluesy, Wood Chipper that lifts a great song into something spooky and otherworldly. My Business may just be the toughest-rocking cut that Hiatt’s ever recorded, with its Howlin’ Wolf vocal hollers and gutbucket stomp, yet his thoughtful, ruminative side shines through on I Just Don’t Know What To Say, the very next track, a piano ballad of plangent majesty. MYSTIC PINBALL is an album of dazzling changes of mood and tone informed by the drive and ambition of a singer-songwriter at the very Top of his game.

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JOHN HIATT – DIRTY JEANS AND MUDSLIDE HYMNS

Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns, the new album from acclaimed musician and songwriter John Hiatt, will be released August 8th2011 on New West Records. This is Hiatt’s twentieth solo album and follows his acclaimed 2010 release, The Open Road, which was an Uncutmagazine Americana Album of the Month, while the The Arts Desk declared it (with severe understatement) “a rather fine collection.” As an added bonus, a deluxe version of the album will be made available, which will include a special behind-the-scenes DVD, The Making of Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns and 24/96 High Resolution audio mix of the entire album. Additionally, Hiatt will undertake UK tour dates in the Autumn of this year.

“…one of rock’s most astute singer-songwriters of the last 40 years.”––Los Angeles Times

Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns was recorded at Ben’s Studio in Nashville and was produced by Kevin Shirley(Led Zeppelin, Silverchair, Joe Bonamassa, Aerosmith, The Black Crowes). In addition to Hiatt, the album features Kenneth Blevins on drums and percussion, Doug Lancio on electric guitars, mandolin and Hammertone and Patrick O’Hearn on bass guitar.

John Hiatt’s career as a performer and songwriter has spanned more than 30 years and his work has been covered by everyone from Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, BB King, Ry Cooder, Rosanne Cash, and Bonnie Raitt to Iggy Pop, Three Dog Night and The Neville Brothers.

Hiatt began his solo career with the 1974 album Hangin’ Around the Observatory. His landmark 1987 release Bring The Family received critical praise and was his first album to chart in the U.S. In 1991-92, Hiatt was one-fourth of roots-rock ‘Supergroup’, Little Village, alongside Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe, and Jim Keltner. In 1993, Rhino Recordsreleased Love Gets Strange: The Songs of John Hiatt, which collected many of the cover versions of his songs that were recorded during the 80s and 90s. 2000’s Crossing Muddy Waters was released to critical acclaim and was called “The most natural and relaxed John Hiatt album in years…” by All Music Guide. In 2008, Hiatt was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and was honored by the Americana Music Association with their prestigious “Lifetime Achievement in Songwriting Award.”

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