Big Dave McLean has been playing the blues in his native Winnipeg for about 28 years now. So itís a little ironic that it takes the participation of relative youngster (in blues terms, anyway) Colin James to get a distribution deal. Nonetheless, whatever works, and itís great that Daveís music can be heard, because heís very good. (And thatís definitely not a knock at Mr. James - heís an incredible talent, and sounds great throughout!)
This is Big Daveís second disc - the first, recorded live, is currently only available at gigs - and itís a tasty platter of traditional blues. Big Dave stays acoustic throughout, on both national steel and regular six-string guitars, and adds some excellent harp. Colin plays mostly acoustic as well - only a couple of tracks feature his electric work. Theyíre joined by a full band on most cuts, with a few duets - just the two of them on guitars - judiciously spaced throughout the set. Cut in just three days, the result is a relaxed sounding session, with almost a "front porch" feel to it all.
Daveís voice is appealingly gruff, and he sings with unhurried ease - nothing forced here, it all seems to come effortlessly and naturally. (28 years of payiní dues will do that!)
The song list sticks mostly to standards (only one original), with nods to Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, Muddy, and a couple by Willie Dixon. But we donít usually hear them done like this, with acoustic guitars instead of screaming electrics - so thereís a fresh feel to every tune, and Dave manages to put his stamp on each one. And just try sitting still through his take on Taj Mahalís "Cakewalk Into Town," a rollicking romp down a dirt road. If youíre not tappiní your toes to this one, check your pulse - you may well be dead!
If thereís a single negative to this disc, itís that at 39 minutes itís a little short by todayís CD standards. Iím not complaining from a value standpoint, I just want more, more, Ďcause itís all so good. Letís hope thereís another soon!
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