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John Mayall

Sun is Shining Down

Sun is Shining Down

UPC: 843563143100

Format: LP

Regular price $18.95
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Just after his 88th birthday in 2021, John Mayall, the long-reigning king of British blues, announced he was hanging up his road shoes. He also noted that he would continue to record and felt excited by the work he was doing. The Sun Is Shining Down (album number 60) was completed just before that announcement. As evidenced here, his ability to write and record vital modern blues with excellent musicians continues unabated. These ten tracks showcase a cast of invited all-star guests; most are guitar slingers -- after all, this is the man who gave us Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, and countless others. His own band comprises guitarist Carolyn Wonderland, bassist Greg Rzab, drummer Jay Davenport, and a horn section for the proceedings. Mayall sings, plays piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond B-3, and harmonica.
Opener "Hungry and Ready" is a swinging Chicago blues with Mississippi-born bluesman Melvin Taylor playing lead guitar atop hard-grooving horns. Mayall, in excellent voice, still plays a deft, wailing harmonica. Taylor's solo is mean and winding. South Carolina blues hero Marcus King takes the lead chair for "Can't Take No More," a funky roadhouse blues driven by B-3 and a cracking drum kit. King lays down layer after layer of tasty guitar fills. Former Heartbreaker and current Fleetwood Mac axeman Mike Campbell guests on Bernard Allison's "Chills and Thrills," offering his funky, yet precise economical style as the perfect foil for Mayall's voice and evil B-3. Buddy Miller adds a nasty blues tone and grimy solo to "I'm as Good as Gone." Violinist Scarlet Rivera accompanies the band on "Deep Blue Sea." Her sweeping fills and labyrinthine solo expand the tune's frame to the breaking point, and Mayall's piano work is exemplary, coming right out of the stride and NOLA traditions, adding color and texture with a Wurlitzer. Ukulele innovator Jake Shimabukuro trades tasty, snarling lines with Wonderland on "One Special Lady" (a jump blues) as Mayall's B-3 prods the band to support them. Taylor tears it up again on a cover of Roosevelt Sykes' "Driving Wheel." His stinging fills punctuate each sung line as the horns stroll and roil underneath. Wonderland shines as a soloist on the closing title track. Her sinister, steamy blues, razor-wire fills, and accents bubble and bump atmospherically around and under Mayall's organ and moaning vocal while the band shuffles, swells, and vamps all around them. Wonderland doesn't merely trade lines with Mayall, she offers a tight, soulful solo and plays call-and-response with herself, offering tight lines and smoky phrases. Hopefully, life goes according to plan and Mayall gets to deliver many more recordings before he's done, because The Sun Is Shining Down sounds hungry and vital. Mayall delivers these rough-and-ready blues like a champ. ~ Thom Jurek