Sean Chambers – Welcome To My Blues
11 tracks/46 minutes
Blues Rock is a label incorrectly assigned to most Blues music with distorted or overdriven guitars. Electric Blues was created by musicians like Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Memphis Minnie who used scratchy old guitars and loud blown-out amplifiers. But they, and other musicians who sound like them, are not rock. What makes Blues Rock is not only a beefed up guitar sound but a Rock mentality and sensibility; not using the traditional 12 bar pattern or substituting chords when using it, the use of effects such as delay and wah-wah to create texture and atmosphere, the translating of the boogie or shuffle into a more adrenalized straight beat – a snare crack verses a rim shot. Buddy Guy is the big bang genesis spewing all the Blues Rock material out into the universe. Jimi, Cream, and Zepplin made it expansive while the Stones made it pop. Modern Blues Rock, however, is more indebted to the trailblazing of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny Winter. These two took the Buddy Guy galaxy that Jimi and Clapton populated and made it modern and brought it back to a firm Blues footing spawning artists like Walter Trout, Eric Gales, Mike Zito, Ana Popovic, and Sean Chambers. Sean Chamber’s newest Welcome To My Blues is a shining example of what a Blues Rock album can be.
Welcome To My Blues is incredibly well produced and performed. Prestigious producer Ben Elliot creates a sonic environment, an auditory performance space, where the instruments and voices are able to come across transparently with great dynamic and depth. Chambers is a monster guitarist and an excellent studio musician, overdubbing layers of crunchy aggressive rhythm and lead guitars that sound natural, urgent and live. Musical foil and co-writer, keyboardist John Ginty layers depth through the Hammond B3 and other cool sounding pianos. Rhythm section Todd Cook on bass and Moe Watson on drums and backing vocals are rock solid, accent on “rock;” a locomotive of movement and drive. Guest slide guitarist Jimmy Bennett co-writes and performs on the western wah-wah tale “One More Night to Ride.”
One of the hallmarks of Blues Rock is not being chained to the 12 bar format while still maintaining Blues cred. On “Boxcar Willie,” written by John Ginty, not only does this crew forgo the 12 bars they also add in a key change. Pulsating with a Hendrix like groove, this song takes a disorienting (in a good way) key change left turn into punked up choruses (think Red Hot Chili Peppers circa Blood Sugar Sex Magik). More nuanced is the chord substitutions in the SRV styled shuffle “Cry To Me.” A 12 bar two-step, the turn-around augments the normal V-IV chords by adding a III chord into the pattern, creating Hair Band tension. Also the nimble solo is over an alternate 8 bar pattern that keeps the song flowing and the listener engaged.
Welcome To My Blues balances rock urgency with real deal Blues burn. The title track is hopped-up testimony to life experience while slow burning 12 bar (again with a turn-around substitution) “Keep On Moving” a deep lament to the journeyman’s lifestyle and its effect on relationships. Slide songs, swampy “Black Eyed Susie” is manic CCR and is balanced by the come-on of straight thumper “Red Hot Mama,” (“she knows how to blow my fuse”). Nods to the masters also play this balance. T-Bone Walker cover “All Night Long” is mutated into a hard hitting rock-funk driver while Luther Allison’s (another forefather of Blues Rock) “Cherry Red Wine” is played straight for maximum Blues Power effect.
In “You Keep Me Satisfied” Chambers sings “I like to take it easy but never slow.” This is a great description of Welcome To My Blues. This is hard charging straight ahead rock music played with effortless ease and real deal Blues emotion. This is what Blues Rock can be at it’s best. A truly fun ride.