14 tracks / 51:48
As blues has evolved over time it has strayed pretty far from its original formula, but country and folk blues usually stays pretty true to the original sources of the genre. Aaron Burton’s self-released sixth album, Up All Night, falls into this latter category, and delivers a solid collection of roots and blues music with a Lone Star influence.
Aaron Burton hails from the Dallas / Fort Worth area, and he has shared his pleasant drawl and fine stringed-instrument prowess around the United States and all the way to the United Kingdom, where he is gaining a respectable collection of new fans. On Up All Night he takes care of the vocals, guitar, mandolin and dulcimer, and he his joined by “Stompin” Bill Johnston on the harp and Dick Cordes behind the drum kit. There are fourteen self-penned tracks on this release, with a couple of neat covers worked into the set.
The title track is up first, and it is readily apparent that Burton has put together a power country blues trio with a big sound. “All Night Long” starts with a dulcimer ostinato and quickly adds slide guitar and mandolin. Johnston’s harmonica takes an active role, filling in the parts that would normally be covered by a second guitar or keyboard. When you add Cordes’ hard-hitting drums into the mix, the effect is quite huge.
Burton’s guitar work is very good, but he does not show off as he plays only the notes and chords that are really necessary. This makes the CD more accessible to a larger audience and provides a more laid-back vibe. His vocals are rich and appropriately growly at times – perfect for the style of blues he is selling.
Aaron is a good storyteller and a capable songwriter as shown by “The Day Big Tex Caught Fire,” a tune that uses the classic blues lyrical style and his electric guitar to recount the loss of the famed Texas State Fair icon back in 2012. He also does a stunning job of capturing the listener’s attention and emotion with “Hard Luck Child,” a more modern blues tune that tells the sorry tale of innocent folks who never had a shot at happiness in their lives.
Despite the heaviness of this last tune, Burton maintains an upbeat mood for much of the album, with light-hearted songs about things that most folks can relate to. And those things are the highs and lows of relationships with the opposite sex. A great example of this is the good sense of humor he maintains as he tries to cut a deal with his ex in “Don’t Talk Bad About Me” (and I sure won’t talk bad about you).
There covers on Up All Night are pretty cool, and they include Charlie Patton‘s “Pony Blues” and Blind Willie McTell’s 1928 standard, “Statesboro Blues.” They both end up being a lot closer to the originals than the countless other versions out there, so if you really love the Canned Heat or Allman Brothers takes on these, you might be a bit let down. But, as they are, they are refreshingly different than what we have come to expect and they fit much better into the overall theme of this release.
The set closes out with a bonus track, “I’m Your Santa Claus,” which might be a fun inclusion for your next holiday party, and it is one last chance to hear some awesome harp work from Stompin’ Bill. Well, it should probably be an adult party, as there are plenty of double entendres that are set to the tune of John Brim’s “Ice Cream Man” (famously covered on Van Halen’s debut album).
Aaron Burton is a fine musician and a mature songwriter, and Up All Night is his best work since he first entered the studio ten years ago. If you are a fan of roots music or country blues, this CD will be just what you are looking for. Also, if you are near Dallas anytime soon, be sure to check out his website as he has a heavy gigging schedule in the DFW metro area, including a regular Tuesday night Delta Blues Jam at The Goat in East Dallas.