John Mayall – The Sun Is Shining Down
John Mayall, elder statesman of the blues, still gainfully employed, may not be singing Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen,” anytime soon but there are great songs that fit his still expressive voice. He’s got 10 new ones ready strung as tight as guitar strings & he could go another 88 years.
Age aside, John’s still got the mojo, grit, expertise, ability, & looks good with a guitar. After my reviewing many earlier Mayall LPs the enjoyment’s in hearing how he maintains his vivid approach to create convincingly fresh nuances each time he tosses one out.
It’s obvious John Mayall loves what he does.
The Sun Is Shining Down (Drops Jan 28–Forty Below Records) was recorded at Robby Krieger’s (The Doors) Horse Latitudes studio Dec. 2019, produced by John with Grammy-nominated producer Eric Corne (rhythm guitar on “Driving Wheel” – excellent tune).
This special collection is augmented by varied artists who join to cook up a modern jambalaya of funky soulful blues with violin, brass, harmonica & an electric ukulele (by Jake Shimabukuro).
Among the musicians that dig into the substance of this platter are Mike Campbell (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers), the effervescent Dylan violinist Scarlet Rivera (“Desire,” & Bob’s Rolling Thunder Revue), blues guitarist Melvin Taylor, & roots rocker Marcus King.
Mayall’s (vocals/keyboards/harmonica) rhythm band – Austin’s Carolyn Wonderland (rhythm/lead guitar on the title cut), Greg Rzab (bass), Jay Davenport (drums), Billy Watts (rhythm guitar 2 cuts) & brass: Ron Dziubla (saxes), Mark Pender (trumpet), Richard Rosenberg (trombone).
The set opens with a snap of drums, lively sparkling brass that duels with a lead guitar on “Hungry & Ready.” The fine instinctive work of Melvin Taylor with a tight arrangement loose enough to set shoulders, hips & feet into a head-bopping groove. Mayall’s blues unlike others can be upbeat. In actuality, the blues shouldn’t be happy. It’s the blues. But John’s style has never wavered through the decades. The quality of the material remains genuine, no messing with the recipe.
Americana musician Buddy Miller graces “I’m As Good As Gone,” with a baritone tremolo guitar that slinks around superb vocals & a Canned Heat-type tempo. A slow burn lead with pure Hammond organ notes & it’s old-fashioned — but satisfying.
Scarlett’s gypsy-like violin saws through “Got To Find a Better Way,” & John’s decisive lead vocal is polished with earthy warmth, & maintains his signature cultivated blues punch. Rivera’s violin is perfectly suited. Scarlett keeps the violin fire fanned for “Deep Blue Sea,” as well. Mayall’s closest commercial-type song. Gypsy violin in the blues – who would’ve thought?
Criticism? The cover art. Not very blues-inspired. The B&W image of John seated (inside spread) on the fender of an old truck with Route 66 license plates – now that’s a blues cover.
Photo courtesies: truck image David Gomez & guitar picture Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty. The 46-minute CD @ Amazon + https://www.johnmayall.com/