13 tracks / 54:44
I have been listening to the blues for most of my life and had never run into a blues record from Israel before, but this first one is setting the bar high. I recently had the opportunity to listen to Lazer Lloyd’s newest album, Lost on the Highway, and it certainly gave me a lot to think about.
Lazer Lloyd was born in New York as Eliezer Blumen, and he started playing guitar at the age 15. After attending Skidmore College his music career turned the corner, and he was about to go to Nashville to work with producer Gary Tallent (also Springsteen’s bassist) when he found another calling. After being asked to play at the Millinery Center Synagogue with the late Ray Shlomo Carlebach (The Singing Rabbi), he accepted the challenge of taking his music to Israel, where he has lived for the past 19 years. He has been busy plying his trade, working with various bands as well as his own power trio, Yoon.
The album cover advertises “Solo Recordings” and that is exactly what he delivers. This CD includes thirteen original tracks, and features Lloyd in the singing role, as well as playing six and 12-string acoustic guitars, with a little harmonica thrown in for good measure. And when you listen to his songs, you are getting to the roots of the blues and folk, with no filler added.
“Lost on the Highway” is the first track, and it is raw blues that sounds like it was cut live in one take, which is a good thing in this case. From the first strains of his acoustic guitar, the listener can hear that Lloyd has serious chops, with confident fingerpicking and slide work. His voice is pleasantly full and strong as he tells the traditional lament of a man on the road, adding the bonus destination of Tel Aviv to the usual list of cities that you find in songs like this.
Lloyd does not speak much of his homeland on this album, and he only lightly touches on the standard blues subjects, instead focusing on man’s relationship with spirituality. “Higher Ground” is about finding one’s place in the world, and this folk blues song features beautiful fingerpicking and intense harp interludes. This is backed up with a heartfelt ballad, “Been Trying,” which is laden with sentiments about trying to lead the good life. This is one of my favorite tracks on this disc.
He lets his guitar do the talking on “Swamp Meditation,” a slow rolling Delta blues instrumental. He does not do anything fancy here, but he already proved his technical skills on the first four tracks. Here he demonstrates his feel for the instrument and the song, and the results are impressive. I thought that “Back Porch” would be another a capella tune, but after a 3 ½ minute intro he launched into verse. This song is notable in his use of guitar chords that are not generally used in blues music, but they work well here to add an exotic mood to the song.
“Politician” is a cranky commentary that relays the frustration we all have with our elected officials. As he does not call out any parties or policies, this is more of a social commentary than a political song. After skirting the political minefield, be takes a tasteful approach to discussing his prayer relationship in “Talk,” as well as a trip to the Garden of Eden in “Man” and the judgment day on “Landlord Blues.” He put a lot of thought into writing these songs so that he could talk about what is on his heart without being preachy or in your face.
Lazer Lloyd’s Lost on the Highway provides a fresh take on the blues and it is definitely worth a listen. His guitar playing alone is worth the price of admission, and when you add in his vocals and strong songwriting skills, this disc is a winner. He toured the United States this past summer in support of his new CD, and I hope he comes back again soon so I can catch one of his performances. From what I heard here it should be a show to remember!