Roy Gaines is finally getting the recognition that he richly deserves.
After spending much of his career as a sideman and a session player, Gaines
has now released four albums in the last five years. In addition, in 1999
he received a Handy award for artist most deserving of wider recognition
and the Living Blues Comeback Artists of the year award. Now to top all
that he recently won the Living Blues Most Outstanding Blues Musician in
the guitarist category. His latest effort, "New Frontier Lover" shows what
all the fuss is about.
The album opens with the title track. It begins in an almost discordant
fashion, before everything suddenly clicks and the band lock into a
terrific groove complete with horns. The sound is quite a distinctive one,
with the emphasis very much on Gaines guitar and vocals, ably supported by
the rest of the band. The most obvious comparison is B.B. King, but the
sound is rooted in the work of T-Bone Walker, who also influenced King.
Gaines delivers the goods throughout. He always seems to find the perfect
guitar tone to suit the mood, injecting just the right amount of soul into
the vocals. He is also a prolific songwriter, and had a hand in all of the
tunes on the album, including the excellent "W.C. Handy Sang The Blues"
which features some very fine fretwork.
For the last four tracks, the band is joined by David Maxwell on piano. The
first of these, "Roy's Theme," is an instrumental which rocks along at a
fair old lick. Gaines leads the way, while the rest of band follow. The
excellent Steve Guyger then joins them on harp for "My Woman, My Blacksnake
And Me" which sees the band closer to Chicago territory. The song sounds a
bit like a musical descendant of "Dust My Broom." After the amusingly
titled "Hind Ends & Elbows," the album comes to a close with "Roll Your Own
Biscuit." It romps along in grand style, with Guyger in evidence doing his
best Little Walter impression on harp, while Maxwell chips in some
excellent piano to match. A very fine end to a very fine album.
"New Frontier Lover" is a terrific album by a man who is at the top of his
form. A protégé of T-Bone Walker, the influence shows through in quite a
few places, and may explain why Gaines sounds like B.B. King at times.
Backed by a bunch of very tight band composed mainly of musicians that
regularly appear on blues releases on the Severn Records label
(www.severnrecords.com) Gaines revels in the atmosphere. "New Frontier
Lover" is highly recommended, and deserves to be right up there when awards
time comes around again.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.