Multi-award-winning blues musician Ian Siegal recently released Stone By Stone, his fourteenth album in a long, distinguished and feted career: British Blues Awards, Mojo Magazine Blues Album of the Year winner, European Blues Music Awards and US Blues Awards nominations. It took a while for the album to come over my desk. It took even longer to write this – because Stone By Stone is recognisably Ian Siegal …. but it’s different (I’ve been playing some earlier CDs to check). When that distant future point comes to reflect on his whole work, it’ll probably be up there with the best; it’s the kind of album that needs the perspective of time to fully appreciate.
Siegal has written/co-written nine of the eleven tracks and Stone by Stone feels in some way more personal, less electric blues, more primal. The album opens with ‘Working On A Building’, a classic Siegal track. The lyric gives the album its title and the treatment is very much a live feel – Siegal supported by Jimmy Wood on vocals and harp, JJ Holiday on guitar.
‘Hand In Hand’ is a Gospel-style Blues, a duet with Shemekia Copeland and authentic enough that I had to check it was a new song. ‘The Fear’ is slow acoustic guitar and harmonica, the vocal reflecting on a life following the path of least resistance and “The fear in your heart/ The fear in your soul/ The fear is that everything’s out of control”.
‘In The Shit’ – that’s the title, you don’t need to know any more, the song is everything that you expect. ‘Psycho’ is one of two tracks not written by Siegal (‘K.K.’S Blues’ is the other).. The title of ‘Psycho’ tells you everything on this track as well – a gentle start building into a slow horror movie that, depending on your preferred tradition, makes murder ballads and Eminem’s ‘Stan’ seem like sweet love songs. ‘K.K.’S Blues’ is acoustically disturbing and just as beautifully delivered.
‘Gathering Deep’ features co-writer Jimbo Mathus on mandolin and Robin Davey in an ode to a fictitious town in the True Detective series. ‘This Heart’ has a moon colder than a whore, there are no answers to life – not the bottle or the spoon, nor the bible – Siegal is raw on this track, just vocal and himself on acoustic guitar. ‘Monday Saw’ is a slapped percussion and vocal track with a curious take on biblical stories, where paradise feels lost. ‘Holler’ is another where I had to check Siegal had written it (he did) so well does he howl the traditional blues. The closing track, ‘Onwards and Upwards’ leaves you with some sense of optimism that the battle of life might be won. You don’t stop living because your life’s turned upside down…. “It’s onwards and upwards until we’re all back home”.
Stone By Stone then is Ian Siegal – distinctively Ian Siegal – but raw, more acoustic, less rocking electric blues, touching at times on gospel and country, singing of darker life but ending on a positive note. It’s not at all what I expected to hear when I first played the album, but it’s bloody good.
Siegal is on tour in the early part of July both solo and with his band. He’s a cracking performer and I’m intrigued to see Stone By Stone tracks played live. See his website for details.
Artist’s website: https://iansiegal.com
‘I’m The Shit’ – official video: