Into The Blues - Joan Armatrading Album Review
Joan Armatrading MBE made her mark way back in late 1976 with top ten hit Love And Affection. Singles wise she charted up to 1992, her last being Wrapped Around Her. Her last chart album was in 1995 - What's Inside. She's been nominated for a Brit and Grammy, though she finally won a gong with an Ivor Novello ward in 1996. Now comes a Blues inspired release, though purists will probably dismiss this one, as it's new territory for the West Indian born songwriter-singer, as it does have a broader sheet than normally used in the genre. Nevertheless, she makes a real fist at it on her 19th album, Armatrading said of her new CD,
Into The Blues is the CD I've been promising myself to write for a long time.Apart from drums / percussion (Miles Bould), Armatrading plays all other instruments which is some feat. She's also written, arranged, produced and recorded the entire album. Dropping her penchant folkie approach and famous acoustic guitar, Armatrading shows us a totally new side to her skills as she tackles an electric guitar, (Fender Stratocaster possibly?) which, it must be said is something of a revelation. Her meticulous guitar technique is evident from the start as she displays some deft finger work on the smooth stylings of a poppy, catchy and mellow ditty that, if released, would make Radio 2 playlistings, and Play The Blues in which she declares,
Recording it has given me so much pleasure and playing blues guitar.... I adore it!
I'd take off all my clothes for you / Baby when you sing the Blues,though she doesn't mention who the 'you' is. The title track is more rootsier in styling, a much broodier affair, with delicious picks and chord breaks with added backing vox by Joan herself. She drops in enough hints for her inspiration,
Are you a mannish boy, just like the might mud.Liza is a massive nod to BBKing/Hooker with a standard Hooker heavy riff textured by wiry picks. Secular Songs returns to her more traditional template of acoustic leanings as she has a pop at the type of songs sung in some church,
It's all Schubert and Beethoven / Oh and lots of French love songs.But further on she reveals,
Yea we'll pray / Pray/ Pray/Pray/ Our souls will rise upon that day.Crunching chords open My Baby's Gone with again a catchy hook and chorus, with odd picks littered here and there, bottleneck, and organ floating in the shadows. Mandolin drenched Baby Blue Eyes once again shows her instrumentation versatility, as does her Blues-harp (harmonica) breaks. Thumping Deep Down is a heavy as Armatrading is ever going to get, an unintentional 'tribute' to the Blues masters of Rock - Led Zeppelin with out and out rocker There Ain't A Girl getting an almost Rockabilly nod. More brooding Blues engulfs Empty Highway, with some stylish picks once again. On closer Something's Gotta Blow she proves she can give maestro Gary Moore a run for his money on a slumbering and dust- fuelled gem. Her keyboard skills are also highlighted here.
A very tasty album.
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