Roy Rogers is not at all afraid of testing the waters with an instrumental album showcasing his slide guitar wizardry. "Slideways" plays hopscotch with Delta blues of which Rogers studied under the tutelage of Boogie King John Lee Hooker. And at the same time, this CD breathes life into genres Roy tampers with in a playful way.
"Avalanche" is juke-joint boogie-woogie that can set a shot of Jack Daniels on fire. Locomotive rhythms and sashaying beats guide "Duckwalk" with Phil Aaberg tickling the ivories in honky-tonk splendor. Long time partner Norton Buffalo adds an extra root to the blues tree with sweet harmonica fills on "I'm With You." On this tune, Roy stakes a heavy claim in Muddy Waters territory. Nothing out of the ordinary considering he has Muddy's drummer Francis Clay backing up on snare drum. So it's easy for ole Mississippi and Chicago to walk together side by side. Using bottleneck and weird tunings give "Talking Walls" a tale of desperation to an American
Outlaw who knows he is walking to the gallows pole shortly. The rhythm
section never slumps as Buffalo lays down chromatic harmonica with Roy's
bottleneck being the ultimate lynchpin. "Gumbo Funk" certainly lives up to
its title. With a funky New Orleans backbeat and jazzy melody, Rogers
unfurls his Mardi Gras flag and shows Sonny Landreth he is not the only
one who can party Crescent City style. And Roy doesn't leave Congo Square
altogether as he struts some lazy slide in "Crescent Steps." The slide
may be carefree but the grooves are tight as drummer Zigaboo Modeliste, percussionist Scott Mathews and bassist Steve Evans lock together toenable Rogers and Buffalo to lubricate the funk machine even more. A city skyline is visualized as "No Destination" becomes a back-drop for a traveler who seeks spiritual escape from the rat race that threatens him. "There Is Only You" might be the weak spot of the CD. Roy's slide can't even drag this number out of the mundaneness it suffers. Not that Roy can't handle
ballads. "Precious Moments" with Phil Aaberg on harmonium, Norton Buffalo on harmonica and Roy himself on percussion and guitar symbolize a poetic sadness not many of us understand. When Roy is on his lonesome, the playing is no less brilliant. "Swamp Dream" finds Rogers walking to the crossroads as he plucks mournful slide lines. Roy finishes the CD by himself on "For The Children." It's solo electric. A sonic blast of slide energy rippling the waters.
Very few artists of Roy Roger's caliber are able to pull off an eclectic piece of work and have it stand on noteworthy merits. Especially an all instrumental album. Roger's can make it work without hurting himself and sacrificing artistic integrity to endear himself to mainstream audiences.
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