Bob Margolin – My Road | Album Review

bobmargolincdBob Margolin – My Road

VizzTone Label Group

12 songs – [44:38]

Bob Margolin needs no introduction to most Blues Blast Magazine readers as the long time Muddy Waters guitar player and even longer time keeper of the Muddy Waters flame; a multi-award-winning guitarist, singer and songwriter; KBA-award winning writer; and renowned producer for artists such as Big Bill Morganfield, Candye Kane, Pinetop Perkins and Ann Rabson.

Now in his late 60s, Margolin’s new album, My Road, shows that he has no intention of slowing down or easing up. He describes the album as his “ride through modern challenges, the ironies and lessons of aging, achieving true love, mourning, my band’s distinctive signature sound, a childhood epiphany, my seven years in Muddy Waters’ band and exploring the darkest sides of life with friends who have been there.” That’s a pretty fair description. It is also an album of confidence and joy, played with spark and deep emotional power.

There are a number of interesting elements in My Road. First, the band comprises Margolin on guitar and vocals, Chuck Cotton on drums and vocals and Tad Walters on harp and guitar. The way the musicians play together, however, means that the absence of a bassist does not detract from the music at all. Sometimes this is due to Margolin playing overdubbed guitars to create intertwining complementary guitar parts a la Muddy and Jimmy Rogers or Jimmy Reed and Eddie Taylor, for example on “I Shall Prevail” and “Feelin’ Right Tonight”. At other times, however, it is all about the clever use of space by the musicians that creates the sense of a deeper, broader sound.

Linked to this is Margolin’s own guitar playing. Long rightly cited as one of (if not, the) greatest exponents of Muddy Waters-style slide guitar, his control over the subtle microtones available to bottleneck players is magnificent. On My Road, his slide playing on “Understanding Heart” and “Devil’s Daughter” is as heart-breaking as ever. In addition, however, Margolin plays a lot of standard guitar and this is where he especially impresses. As they age, many electric guitar players lose the aggression and power of their youth. The legendary Albert Collins is a rare example of a player who bucked this trend and seemed to play with ever more bone-rattling attitude and assertiveness as his career progressed. I don’t know if Collins’ and Margolin’s shared love of Telecasters plays any part on this, but Margolin’s playing on My Road displays a similar level of bad-assery, whether playing lead or when grinding out dirty, gritty rhythms on tracks such as “Low Life Blues” and “My Whole Life”.

Of the 12 tracks on the album, Margolin contributed six songs, plus one co-write, as well superb covers of Sean Costello’s “Low Life Blues”, Tad Walters’ “Ask Me No Questions”, Tex Rubinowitz’s “Feelin’ Right Tonight” and DB Codd’s “Devil’s Daughter”. One of the emotional highpoints of the album is the cover of Nappy Brown’s “Bye Bye Baby”, where Margolin and Cotton harmonise the vocals over Walters’ sympathetic harp backing.

Margolin’s own lyrics are frequently autobiographical, such as in “My Whole Life” or the wry acknowledgment of the aging process in the shuffle of “Young and Old Blues” where he sings “I love to play the blues on my guitar, so I went to see BB King. It was hard to believe that a man so old could still play and sing. I was 20 years old and he let me sit in and he tore it some more. That ancient man played all night long – BB King was 44. I shake my head and smile about how we look at young and old. It depends on which side you look from – and the truth sure can be cold.”

With its mix of blues styles, top drawer musicianship and sparkling production, My Road is a first class slab of modern blues and is highly recommended.

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