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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Forty Below Records artist: John Mayall - A Special Life

I just received the newest release (May 13, 2014), A Special Life, from John Mayall and in keeping with tradition, Mayall gives us another new view at his take on the blues. Opening with Why Did You Go Last Night, a Jimmy Reed like track, features Mayall on piano and CJ Chenier on accordion and lead vocal. Sonny Landreth's Speak Of the Devil has a strong bottom thanks to Jay Davenport (drums) and Greg Rzab (bass). Rocky Athas rips a nice guitar solo on this track as Mayall fills out the body on organ. James Lane's That's All Right has a strong R&B blues feel and features Mayall not only on vocal but also on harp. Nice! World Gone Crazy has a cool Doors like feel with Mayall on vocal, harp and keys but it's all about the bass on this track. Albert King's Floodin' In California still has the funky R&B style but with a definite Mayall twist. Easy going guitar work from Mayall on this track complimented by his own organ work leaves a nice open path for Athas to play a crisp guitar solo of his own. Very nice. Eddie Taylor's Big Town Playboy is up next with a cool shuffle beat. Mayall echoing himself on vocal and harp and accompanying himself on piano, this is a cool Chicago style blues. Davenport lays in the pocket as Mayall shows he still knows his way around the keys and the harp. Nice. Title track A Special Life is an easy going ballad with a really nice harp work. Jimmy McCracklin's I Just Got To Know has a real strong R&B feel and Mayall's vocals are best shown on this track. Athas plays a particularly well articulated solo on this track making it the front runner for my favorite track on the release. Heartache has a bit of a Latin feel with, Mayall playing a clavinet adding to an island feel. Getting into the Latin spirit, Athas lays down a nicely articulated guitar solo in contrast to a somewhat calming track. Like a Fool has a driving bass line compliments of Rzab and Mayall leads the way with classic vocal styling and nice organ work. Athas again steps up with blistering fretwork making this another of my favorites on the release. Wrapping the release is Just A Memory, a really nice ballad delivered a la blues. One of the coolest compositions on the release and featuring an extended piano solo from Mayall this is a super conclusion to one of the founders of the modern blues' newest releases.

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