It has been four years since Paul Judge released his first album ("Person to Person"). The promise shown on that album helped to secure Judge a slot as slide guitar columnist in Guitarist magazine. In the interim, Judge has also been busy writing material that now sees the light of day on his latest album, "Love & Hard Work."
The album opens with the first of seven band pieces, "All I Need Is You." It is a prime slice of British r'n'b that calls to mind Wilko Johnson's Solid Senders at their peak. The emotion of the blues shine right through in Judge's electric slide playing and singing, with Matthew Smith providing the gutsy sax break.
There is a quick change of pace for "Leaving Early," which starts out with some nifty acoustic slide before the tune rattles along to reach a skiffle-like train tempo. The band also adopt a similar beat to great effect on "Back Beat Boogie," with Dave Bowie giving it his all on double bass. On the solo piece "Sweet Satisfied," Judge moves even further towards (original) rock'n'roll territory, where he sounds a bit like early Elvis in places.
The album features six instrumentals, three of which Judge delivers solo. The first of these, "Travelling On," opens with some very fine Delta guitar picking (on a resonator). The simple, but memorable refrain is repeated throughout, with Judge cranking up the speed by several notches as the tune goes along. Judge's talents as a guitarist and slide player are reinforced by "Beyond The Horizon," and the slightly jazzy "Six Point Boogie."
Possibly the most impressive track here, however, is "Catcall." This band instrumental features some particularly fine electric slide guitar from Judge, which calls to mind the late great Earl Hooker. This is the second number featuring the four-piece band line-up. The other two are the melancholic "Blues For LEJ" named for Judge's father, to whom the album is dedicated, and the closing "Night Shift," another instrumental which tips a hat in the direction of Eric Clapton in his bluesier guise.
"Love & Hard Work" is a nicely crafted album, that highlights Paul Judge's talents in a range of settings: solo, band, vocal, and instrumental. As well as being a fine slide player, Judge has developed strong songwriting skills too. The choice of Steve Phillips--no mean guitar player, himself--as producer is an inspired one, and he brings out the best in Judge . If you like quality slide guitar playing, then you will have to go a long way to find anything that matches "Love & Hard Work" this year.
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