Under The Radar Music Group – 2016
9 tracks; 61 minutes
In recent years Doug McLeod has won several awards including the BMA for Acoustic Artist of 2016 and was Blues Blast’s Male Artist Of The Year in 2013. Those accolades are well deserved but Doug is not a new kid on the block, having been around for a long time, playing in bands as well as solo and writing songs that have been recorded by the likes of Alberts Collins and King, Coco Montoya and Joe Louis Walker. Doug learned from the old-time greats and in particular absorbed the need to be real, “never play a note you don’t believe and never write or sing about what you don’t know”.
As he criss-crosses the globe to bring his music to his audiences that is how he goes about his work, always connecting closely with his audience. This album was in fact recorded in 2006 but remained unissued because Doug was unwell on the night and felt that his voice was not in good shape. However, encouraged to take another listen Doug had to agree that the concert was worth issuing. We only get the songs and not Doug’s often hilarious in between patter though there are examples such as the beginning of “Bad Magic” when he humorously talks of how difficult it is to pronounce the name of the Dutch town in which he is playing.
On these nine tracks all you hear is Doug – voice, guitar and left foot – and excellent stuff it is too. All the material is original apart from Bukka White’s train song “Panama Limited” which is adapted by Doug as “The New Panama Ltd” and wanders eloquently across 14 minutes as Doug talks first of discussing the train with David Honeyboy Edwards, then moves into the song with plenty of fine slide work on his steel guitar. All of these songs have clear blues DNA but two stand out in particular: “Cold Rain” has lots of slide and Doug’s plaintive vocal and “Long Time Road” is classic blues with the ringing guitar and foot-tapping rhythm superbly maintained by Doug.
Doug’s sense of humor shows through on tracks like “Home Cookin’” in which his girl is hopeless in the kitchen or “Turkey Leg Woman”, a kind of tribute to the larger lady “with the built-in cushion”. During the intro to the latter Doug is at pains to explain that although the song is his the inspiration comes from the Mississippi Hill Country traditions of RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough and at the end explains to the audience that his voice is not what it should be but that he has enjoyed playing for them. From the extended applause and whistles it sounds like the feeling was reciprocated! Encore “The Master’s Plan” is a co-write between Doug and Danny Jesser, a quiet, reflective song to close the evening.
Fans of well-played acoustic blues will treasure this recording and add it to other recordings by Doug McLeod, a master of the genre.