Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Review: "Find a Way to Care" by John Mayall

by Claudia A,

Still going strong after all these years, well, decades really, English blues legend John Mayall has just released his latest masterwork – presenting us with 12 tracks ranging from the organic to honking boogie-woogie tunes.

Mayall gets down to business straight away with the hilariously titled Mother In Law Blues – a number drenched in rootsy blues. Co-producer Eric Corne wanted to feature more of Mayall’s keyboard skills on this album, instead we get treated to a spiffing harmonica here. No worries, there is plenty of keyboard play from the maestro in store as we go along!

The River’s Invitation (a Percy Mayfield cover) boasts a horn section but it isn’t long before the Hammond comes in to great effect. Really, the horn section beefs up this composition big time and rolls on a lot more fleshed out than Mayfield’s original.

Mayall’s own Ain’t No Guarantees kicks off with penetrating drums and is dominated by a typical 60’s style wah-wah organ sound – its zappy beat is both dynamic and infectious.

Next he tackles a number by one of the all-time masters: the one and only Sam ‘Lightnin’ Hopkins, I Feel So Bad. Upbeat (once again with invigorating horns and keys) and in your face (compared to the stripped-down Hopkins original) you can’t fail to like this – even if you’re an out n out purist! My favorite number on the album!

Next up is title track Find A Way To Care – starting out in rather rocking fashion but quickly falling back into a relaxed mid-pace. It is obviously a very personal number in which Mayall reflects on his life and career, or so it would appear.

Not content with just giving us a Lightnin’ Hopkins cover version, JM is obviously not afraid to enter the lion’s cage and takes on the almighty Muddy Waters with his take of Long Distance Call. Let’s just say it sounds alright. Only kidding, John! Really, Mayall’s version sounds a lot more laid back but one can’t help thinking that Muddy would approve.

Yes, and another cover version follows… in this case it’s the witty I Want All My Money Back by ace Louisiana blues-picker Lonnie Brooks. MJ and Co. execute this in a slick style and yet, the whole number drips with the juiciest of blues.

Ropes And Chains is a Mayall/Rzab composition that evokes the sheer richness of the Mississippi Delta and long journey across the Deep South – guitar and harmonica always at hand.

Another 60’s hued blues-rocker is the driving Long Summer Days. Its punchy beat and effortlessly performed arrangement, layered with heavy keys, simply floats.

Speaking of floating: the superb blues ballad Drifting Blues (courtesy of Ray Charles master Charles Mose Brown) reflects what the blues is all about not only in terms of music but also in terms of the lyrics. “I’m drifting and drifting like a ship out on the sea / I got nobody in this world to care for me” tells a tale that many can relate to, only here the loneliness is ‘sweetened’ by a truly memorable song.

We also get two bonus tracks – the dynamic Matt Schofield/Dorothy Whittick cover War We Wage and the earthy Crazy Lady – one of Mayall’s own superb blues compositions.

Find A Way To Care is a must for any serious blues and John Mayall fan out there, and one of the best British blues releases thanks to the combined talents of Mayall’s band members Rocky Athas (lead n rhythm guitar), Greg Kazar (bass), and Jay Davenport (drums).