THE BILLS – ‘Til The Blues Have Gone (Wheeling RecordsWRCS 2O2OO1)

'Til The Blues Have GoneNorway-based American bluesmen, Bill Booth and Bill Troiani have played together in various permutations over the years, but ‘Til The Blues Have Gone marks their first recordings, a shared songwriting mix of deep blues, swing, and country, their combination of bass, guitar, fiddle and banjo fleshed out by Alexander Pettersen on drums.

There’s a general good times vibe even when the songs have a downbeat theme, things kicking off with the title track’s uptempo poppy New Orleans and shuffle, Booth’s fiddle adding to the sense of positivity. Last Chance To Hurt Me’ keeps it bubbling along before ‘Good Lord Done Gone’ calls on gospel blues influences for its observation of a world gone to the devil, the first verse speaking of mob violence inspired by the true story of a lynching in the south in the 1960s, the second addressing police corruption and the last verse inspired by America’s recent spate recent gun violence and mass murders in church.

The first co-write, ‘Slipping Through The Cracks’ has more of country swing groove while the second, ‘Keeping The Blues Alive’ is a slower done left me burn, the tempo picking back up for Booth’s minor blues swing, ‘Asking For More’, fiddle and guitar trading off on with its received wisdom that “it don’t matter in the end, the losers, winners rich or poor will be asking for more”. Poppier with a tinge of Cooderish Texicali perhaps, ‘Already Gone’ bemoans how quickly your pay cheque disappears before moving on to a theme of relationships and the environment following suit.

Lost love is a blues staple, of course, and Booth serves up another helping with the urgent wheels rolling rock rhythms of ‘Driving Rain’, succinctly summing things up as “One way ticket, no return, lost in love, hard lesson learned”.

It’s back to swing influences on the goodtime keep em guessing ‘Still Might Be Around’, before getting back on the highway with the fiddle-driven ‘Road Is Long’ with its theme of longing for home when you’re out travelling a one way track.

The last of the co-writes, ‘Sun Was Going Down’ is another fiddle flavoured blues slope n shuffle that treats on another staple theme, that of the morning after the hard night’s partying before with “beer cans and bottles all over the floor”, ending with Booth’s stripped down traditional style slow brooding blues ‘Didn’t Know What I Had’, fiddle solo providing the bridge. Sandwiched inbetween is the sole cover, Patterson laying down a march beat behind Booth’s resonator guitar on Son House’s warning about fake friends, ‘Grinnin’ In Your Face.

As you’d imagine, after all these years in the business, they play with an effortless and relaxed ease and, while, it’s rooted in well worn musical and lyrical territory, it slips down like a well matured mellow bourbon.

Mike Davies

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”Til The Blues Have Gone’ – official video:

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