January 21, 2020

Colin James – Miles to Go – Stony Plain Records

FourScore
By Kristi Kates | Oct. 13, 2018

Canadian bluesman James dug pretty deep for this collection, stretching his own songwriting abilities on several new originals, and also going well beyond clichés to point a spotlight at some much-lesser known blues covers by the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Blind Willie Johnson. Working with his longtime touring band, these performances are tightly locked in and sharp, especially on tracks like the horns-bedecked “One More Mile,” the swampy “Dig Myself a Hole,” and the modern blues of “40 Light Years.” ***

Carrie Underwood – Cry Pretty – Capitol Nashville
Underwood shifted to Capitol Nashville for this record, co-wrote the lead single with The Love Junkies, and teamed up with David Garcia on production. But not much else has changed. Underwood’s always stuck her emotions right out in front of her tracks, and this album’s no exception. She goes over the top with all the Drama a little  too often — it would be nice to hear her dial it down below 11 once in a while, especially lyrically — but her die-hard fans will certainly champion tunes like “Spinning Bottles” and the title track. ** ½

Doyle Bramhall II – Shades – Provogue
Eric Clapton cohort and blues singer-songwriter Bramhall, while a skilled player, doesn’t really do anything unique here — he’s really just playing the kind of ’70s-inspired blues-rock you can hear at any street corner bar. Clapton shows up to throw down some guitar on “Everything You Need,” and pal Norah Jones adds some style to “Searching for Love,” but other than that, this is pretty much standard rock business. **

Joe Bonamassa – Redemption – J&R
Primarily known for his blues guitar work, Bonamossa also throws in some vocal work on this set, and you know what? He’s not half bad. While his archetypal brand of blues may not appeal to all, as each track is quite similar to the ones before and after, his playing is excellent. His interpretations of the dynamics of each tune are particularly well-executed. Some of the tunes sound a little dated (“Deep in the Blues Again” could’ve easily been released back in the ’80s), but others, like “Redemption” and “King Bee Shakedown” show more diversity. **

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