11 songs – 39 minutes
Jason Buie is a Vancouver Island-based singer, guitarist and songwriter who has been around playing across Canada, the USA, Japan and Europe for over 20 years. Driftin’ Heart is only his third album, following 2002’s Urban Blues and 2009’s Live At The Gator, but it is a highly impressive slab of modern blues-rock, with much more blues than rock on display.
Driftin’ Heart opens with the hard Texas shuffle of “Fool From The Start”, with Dave Webb’s great organ playing nicely backing up the T-Birds-style guitar riff. Buie sings with a gruff, road-worn voice that suits both the music and his own muscular lead guitar playing. It is also a cleverly written song, sitting squarely within the blues tradition but with subtle digressions away from a standard 12-bar structure.
Buie handles all the singing and guitar playing on the album. He has also assembled an excellent band with John Hunter on drums, George Fenn on bass and Dave Webb on piano and B3. Hunter and Fenn are a rock-solid rhythm section who give the music real drive while Webb’s musicality and understated contributions help to smooth off some of the rockier edges from the songs, keeping them very much within the blues field. Buie’s guitar playing is fluid and brawny, with a pronounced Stevie Ray Vaughan influence, particularly on tracks like “Fool From The Start”, “Suits Me To A Tee” and “Government Man”. He keeps his solos short and punchy, often smartly but briefly nipping outside the traditional blues scales, for example on the title track.
Buie and Hunter co-wrote seven of the tracks on the album, which take in a broad range of classics blues styles, from the Howlin’ Wolf-esque “Government Man” to the West Coast jump blues of “West Coast Daddy”, the swamp pop ballad “Stay The Night” (which contains one of Buie’s most heart-felt vocals and an utterly impassioned guitar solo) and the Texas grind of “Last Love Affair”.
The five covers are all relatively well-known but are played with high energy and none is played as a straight copy of the original. Amos Milburn’s “House Party” is played sans horns but benefits from the upbeat backing vocals of Rick Salt and Marisha Devoin. Sue Foley’s “Annie’s Driftin’ Heart”, re-named here “Driftin’ Heart”, was originally recorded with just Foley and her guitar. Buie’s version is given a full band treatment with more delightful piano from Webb. Jimmy Rogers recorded a number of versions of “You’re Sweet”, but none with the modern punch of Buie’s version. And Jesse Mae Robinson’s “Cold Cold Feeling” is played as a Magic Sam-esque major/minor key ballad.
Driftin’ Heart is a relatively short album, with 11 clocks clocking in at 39 minutes, but there really isn’t any filler here. If you like the modern blues-rock of Stevie Ray Vaughan or Kenny Wayne Shepherd, you will definitely want to check out Jason Buie. Let’s hope it isn’t another eight years until his next release.