This year marks the tenth anniversary of Hey Baby! records, the company
started by bluesman Dave MacKenzie. All three of his previous albums were
very well received on both sides of the pond. MacKenzie's latest effort,
"Solo," where he concentrates on playing acoustic guitar appears destined
to follow suit.
The opener, "That Rainy Day's Comin'," which was inspired by financial
advice from Henry Townsend, offers a good snapshot of MacKenzie's talents.
He is an adept slide guitarist, with vocals that always fit the song just
about right. Like all the tunes here, it was recorded live in the studio.
Those listening out for MacKenzie's wry sense of humor have to wait until
the third track, "Two Girlfriends," which also features some fine
fingerpicking on a song based on a Blind Willie McTell theme.
All the tunes are MacKenzie originals, with two exceptions. The first is
Sleepy John Estes' "Little Laura," where MacKenzie uses slide guitar to
fine effect. The only other cover is also dominated by slide guitar, when
MacKenzie delivers an impassioned slice of delta blues with Muddy Waters'
"Too Young To Know."
There is plenty of fingerpicking guitar on display too, and when it is
combined with MacKenzie's humorous lyrics it is certain to raise a smile on
anybody's face. Classic examples of this are "Big Ol' Girls," "If Jesus
Comes Back" and "Rats In My Bedroom." The image of 'roaches racing rats
around MacKenzie's home on the latter is one that certainly stays with you!
MacKenzie's more serious side is best exemplified by "Back In The Day,"
which tackles the notion that things were better "in our day." MacKenzie
points out that people went through hard times, and he, for one, does not
want to go back. His guitar playing on this one calls to mind some of
Lonnie Johnson's finest work, straying towards jazz territory. He also
veers into this area with some nice jazzy chording on "She Ain't No
Southern Girl," as he highlights the differences between northern and
After "Jumpin' On Jefferson," where MacKenzie name checks two of
Nashville's finest blues artists--Marion James and Johnny Guitar Jones--and
"Stumblin' Home," MacKenzie rounds off in style with "A Better Way." Once
more the tune is dominated by slide, this time shifting more into Gospel
territory. Blind Willie Johnson shines through on a rousing song that
ensures that you do not forget "Solo" in a hurry.
"Solo" is another mighty fine album from Dave MacKenzie. Anyone who likes
acoustic blues will find plenty here to enjoy. The album works as
background music, and equally rewards those who like to analyze the music
and/or the lyrics. "Solo" will certainly be in this reviewer's top 10
albums for 2003. Highly recommended.
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