Bob Margolin – Bob Margolin
15 songs – 56 minutes
Bob Margolin’s 2016 release, My Road, was a raw, stripped-down recording featuring Margolin on guitar and vocals, Chuck Cotton on drums and vocals, Tad Walters on harp and guitar and no bass player at all. His latest, self-titled, release on the VizzTone label sees Margolin go further down the road of self-sufficiency in that while the album was mastered by Dave Harris, Margolin produced, recorded, mixed and played every note on the album.
With a mix of six original songs and nine choice covers from the likes of Snooky Prior, Muddy Waters, James Cotton, Leroy Carr, Jimmy Rogers, Johnny Winter and Bob Dylan, Margolin covers a lot of musical ground. Some songs, like the upbeat opener “One More Day”, and the charming slide-driven Motown-tribute instrumental “Detroit” feature a full band setting with Margolin on guitars, bass and drums. The Muddy-esque “Mercy” is played with just a solo guitar backing, while Carr’s “Blues Before Sunrise” features two guitars merging and meshing in classic Waters/Rogers style.
“Blues Before Sunrise”, “How Long How Long Blues” and Johnny Winters’ “Dallas” are relatively well-known songs. Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” is of course very well-known albeit perhaps not in a blues context. Margolin also lays down some lesser-known covers, however. Pryor’s “Peace Of Mind” was originally recorded for Margolin’s 1994 album, My Blues And My Guitar. On the new version, Pryor’s memorably catchy harp riff is recreated by Margolin’s slide guitar. Rogers’ “Goin’ Away Baby” is played pretty close to the original, albeit without Little Walter’s magical harp accompaniment, while Muddy’s “Look What You Done” is played with a single guitar backing as opposed the Muddy’s full band original (with its glorious piano by Otis Spann). Muddy’s great jump blues, “She’s So Pretty” was originally the b-side to “Hoochie Choochie Man” in 1954. Delightfully, Margolin retains the unexpected sudden ending of the original.
Lyrically, Margolin’s original songs address similar themes to those on My Road. On “Head Held High” he offers a different perspective on a familiar story of breakup and heartbreak. “Mercy” and “Best I Can Do” look at the current toxic political climate in as balanced a way as possible (with some glorious slide guitar on the former). “My Road” (which wasn’t ready in time to be included on the album of the same name) is Margolin’s own personal story.
There are some magnificent moments on Bob Margolin, usually involving his astonishing slide guitar playing, which is by turns angry, distraught, happy and sexual. His playing on the album’s closing track, Cotton’s “One More Mile” is particularly moving. The highlights of the album are when Margolin’s guitar is allowed to take centre stage, such as on “One More Mile”, “Mercy” or the space-age slide of “Best I Can Do.”
Margolin’s singing voice remains something of an acquired taste. The weaker songs on the album are those where he provides the rhythm section. “One More Day”, in particular, could benefit from a different drum pattern.
Bob Margolin deserves credit for his continued willingness to try new ideas and approaches as he approaches his 70th birthday. There is a rawness to Bob Margolin that is enticing and fans of deep blues guitar playing will find a lot to enjoy here.