Words By: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: December 2nd, 2016, via Interscope Records
It has been over fifty years since The Rolling Stones put out a straight forwards blues record. While they have always had a blue heart at the core of their music- they are after all, the epitome of a blues infused rock- their legacy as one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band often overshadows their amazing ability to play the blues like it’s nobody’s business. Blue And Lonesome is the perfect reminder to just that. As the Stones first studio record in eleven years, the album is a collection of blues covers from revered artists of the likes of Willie Dixion and Howlin’ Wolf and makes for one of the best records of 2016.
Blue And Lonesome wastes no time in jumping into a dirty and rough blues groove on the opening track, “Just Your Fool”. The song opens with thick guitars chugging in rhythmic unison and Mick Jagger’s harmonica which cuts through the dense wall of guitars, piano, and drums, serving as another reminder that he is one of the greatest harmonica players to emerge from the British Invasion. The album captures the Stones performing varying styles of the blues, each one as great as the next. The title track, “Blue And Lonesome” takes the tempo down to a steady crawl with a pendulum like sway to it. It’s gritty, and provides for some incredible weaving of guitar parts between Keith Richards and Ron Wood as they play in unison, trade licks, and bounce off of each other. The albums lead single, “Ride ‘Em On Down” picks the speed and the energy up into something you can’t help but move to, while also featuring some of the album’s best guitar licks. The accompanying music video see’s Kristen Stewart racing through the streets of Los Angeles in a vintage muscle car, which very much captures the vibe of the song.
The record also features two songs in which Eric Clapton appears on to provide additional guitar parts. The first, he plays slide guitar on “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” which sees him play some great lines including a solo in the intro, and a number of lead lines which act as a response to Jagger’s wailing calls. The second, he takes the lead guitar lines on the albums closer track, another slower track with a very tight groove which are only elevated by the combined guitar talent of Richards, Wood, and Clapton. The whole record is a guitar masterpiece demonstrating tasteful and sophisticated guitar work from three legends.
Blue And Lonesome is an incredible album. In a world which is all about forward progression, The Rolling Stones have delivered a much needed throwback. This collection of blues classics is brought to life by a sense of improvisation and a set of skills from a band of musicians who have been masters at their craft for more than half a century. At times, Blues And Lonesome is brimming with emotion, at others its jumpy, and on a few occasions, the Stones capture the dark and grittiness which makes the blues so damn infectious. It is the ominous and mysterious vibes they create, as best heard on “Hoo Doo Blues”, a song which captures the folklore and heart of the blues. There is a sense of a haunting evil lurking in this feeling; something devilish and taboo; something we all want in on, but few are willing to succumb to such pleasures. The blues is all about exploring the human condition and few, if any, artists- outside of the pinnacle of the blues era of the 1940’s and 50’s- can play the blues with as much conviction as the Stones do. It’s a record overflowing with heart, soul, and passion, all of which can be heard in abundance. Blue And Lonesome not only stands among the best of The Rolling Stone’s classic material, but also provides as a flawless example of how the blues can be translated into today’s world.
1: Just Your Fool (Originally By Buddy Johnson)
2: Commit A Crime (Originally By Howlin’ Wolf)
3: Blue And Lonesome (Originally By Memphis Slim)
4: All Of Your Love (Originally By Magic Sam)
5: I Gotta Go (Originally By Little Walter)
6: Everybody Knows About My Good Thing (Originally By Miles Grayson & Lermon Horton)
7: Ride ‘Em On Down (Originally By Eddie Taylor)
8: Hate To See You Go (Originally By Little Walter)
9: Hoo Doo Blues (Originally By Otis Hicks & Jerry West)
10: Little Rain (Originally By Ewart G. Abner Jr. & Jimmy Reed)
11: Just Like I Treat You (Originally By Willie Dixon)
12: I Can’t Quit You Baby (Originally By Willie Dixon)