Here is a bonus nine-pack Playlist for January of some of the best guitar-based artists and bands who have recent releases.
Clapton – Eric Clapton (Reprise). This new Slowhand solo effort is very much a laid-back mixed bag. Parts of the disc recall the easygoing folk-blues of his recent J.J. Cale collaboration, while other parts recall his roots blues albums and even his jazz forays. The jazz songs have a decidedly New Orleans feel or lush strings. It is not one of his best solo albums, but it makes for enjoyable listening. On DVD, check out the third Of Eric Clapton’s benefit Crossroads Guitar Festival two-DVD sets from Rhino. This one again boasts a guitar-lover’s dream roster that includes Jeff Beck, Robert Cray, Jimmie Vaughn, Bert Jansch, Stefan Grosman, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Buddy Guy, Ron Wood, B.B. King and countless others. Also on DVD is Eric Clapton The 1960’s Review (Chrome Dreams), a documentary which includes interviews with John Mayall, Chris Dreja, Paul Jones and rare footage of Clapton with the Yardbirds backing up Sonny Boy Williamson.
Steve Miller Band – Bingo! (Roadrunner). Steve Miller’s first album in years reflects his true blues roots as a guitarist. The album is also a loving tribute and a farewell to longtime harmonica player Norton Buffalo, whose work on the album and on previous Miller outings is grossly underrated. While Miller’s classic 70’s album-rock pop continues in heavy rotation on the radio, this authentic blues album is the real deal.
Santana – Guitar Heaven (Arista). Carlos Santana has revived his career by recording albums filled with modern guest vocalists. While the concept here and some song selections seem like a good idea, most of the pairings seem heavy-handed at best. The pungent subtlety of Santana’s playing, the mix of styles and a lack of rhythmic juice make most of these songs fall flat.
Jimmie Vaughn – Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites (Shout Factory). Often overshadowed by Kim Wilson during his time in the Fabulous Thunderbirds and by his big brother Stevie Ray, Vaughn, like Ron Wood, is a guitar player whose feel is irresistible. He also has the kind of sly, easy-going vocal style that makes the blues he makes fun. This is yet another in a long line of underrated albums that make Vaughn one of the brightest stars in the world of bluesy guitar rock.
Buddy Guy – Living Proof (Silvertone/Jive). At 74, bluesman Buddy Guy proves that the music he is making today should not be overshadowed by his enormous influence on rock guitarists (e.g. Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton). This superb studio set, with cameos by B.B. King and Carlos Santana, features Guy playing blistering guitar. Thankfully, Guy saves his on-stage act for concerts. Guy should bring more of this kind of focus to his live sets.
Doobie Bros – World Gone Crazy (HOR). After a ten-year absence from the recording studio, the Doobie Brothers return with Ted Tempelman, the man who produced most of their classic 70s albums. With a good mix of electric and acoustic guitar rock and just the right touches of horns, and featuring Michael McDonald on vocals on one track, this Tom Johnson-led Doobies is back on track. A bonus DVD contains a documentary on the group and a music video of “Nobody.”
Robert Cray – Cookin’ In Mobile (Vanguard). Here is yet another excellent live album from one of the hottest blues guitarists on the planet. He has released live CDs before, but this set, taken from a show in Mobile, Alabama also includes a DVD of the concert, backstage footage and two videos.
Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Troubles – Couldn’t Stand The Weather (Epic/Legacy). Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble’s second album gets the Legacy Edition treatment. This two-CD set includes the original album, 11 bonus tracks and an entire disc of their 1984 concert at the Spectrum in Montreal.
Jimi Hendrix – West Coast Seattle Boy (Experience Hendrix/Legacy). The seemingly endless treasure trove of unreleased Jimi Hendrix recordings continues with this four CD/single DVD box set. 45 previously unreleased tracks and the documentary Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child on the DVD makes this a great box set. There is also a 60-page booklet and, via a computer link, bonus video footage and additional content.