The old adage that blues artists get better with age proves itself once again. The Godfather of British Blues, John Mayall has released his 65th album in his long and illustrious career. Titled Talk About That, Mayall’s voice sounds as good today as it did in 1966 when he teamed up with a very young Eric Clapton as part of his band, The Bluesbreakers. Never lacking from devoted musicians wanting to play with the master, this time Mayall teams up with James Gang and Eagles guitar legend Joe Walsh for a powerful and relevant blues album that is fresh and vibrant. While only on two tracks, Walsh shows his chops with some heartfelt blues guitar.
Listen to the album below, and read on for the full review.
How can you not love a musician who clearly loves the blues with a passion unrivaled? Mayall is still touring and bringing it with his ever fluid keyboards, blues harp playing and always provocative lyrics. This album has a funkier edge for sure with a great horn section. The trio of Ron Dzuibla on sax, Mark Pender on trumpet and Nick Lane on trombone add texture and warmth.
The title song, “Talk About That,” is a funky kickoff that sets the tone. The second song is in true Mayall style, “It’s Hard Going Up” mixes hot horns with his gruff voice telling how hard it was going up in the business (but twice as hard going down). Next up, “The Devil Must be Laughing,” the first of two songs with Joe Walsh, is a splendid blues masterpiece. It is dark and ominous speaking of dangerous word with intolerance, mass murder and unnecessary wars. Walsh is in lockstep that gives the heat to the devil.
The mood lightens considerably with homage to Dr. John, “Gimme That Gumbo.” A tight New Orleans romp with bawdy horns; it’s a toe tapper that makes your yearn for some of that Cajun goodness. His guitarist, Rocky Athas, shows his remarkable skill to great effect.
The second song featuring Joe Walsh, “Cards on the Table,” is another gem. It’s got a catchy laconic pace, which is a great vehicle for Walsh to show his acumen on slide. There is an instant familiarity to it… a rare gift that Mayall possesses.
“Don’t Deny Me” starts with horns and shifts into familiar Mayall territory. He tells a great story, entreating, “don’t deny me your love!” The music interlude is pure keyboard persuasion. Rocky puts the guitar stamp on it… this is the blues at their core!!
John Mayall is a true legend. As important to British blues as B.B. King was to American blues. He is to be listened to and venerated. At 83, he is still going strong. When he tours the US again, don’t miss it – even after 50+ years of touring, Mayall still plays with a smile on his face. He is clearly a man who loves his music.