12 tracks/52 minutes
Christian Collin offers up a great original album of original music with Spirit of the Blues. This is his second as a solo artist; he also released two with his first band Molasses, a blues rock band. Featuring Collin on vocals and guitar, Alex Evans on bass and Chris Morris on drums, there are also a number of guests who appear and make solid contributions. Billy Branch and Matthew Skoller play harp, Johnny Iguana is on piano and organ, Pete Galanis (from Howard and the White Boys) plays some slide, Jen Williams does backing vocals and Rodney Brown and his cadre add their horns.
Born in the Detroit area, Christian Collin makes his home in Chicago. His father was an A&R man for Capitol Records and also was road manager for Bob Seger. Attending a Little Feat concert in 1979 when Lowell George was still with the band was a hugely influencing moment for 13 year old Christian. He has spent the last 15 perfecting his craft playing the blues across the Midwest.
“One and Only” opens the CD. The liner notes say Collin plays rock with a blues flair and this song is proof. It’s a rocker with lots of bluesy influences. Collin lets it all hang loose, Iguana lights p the B-3 an Jen and Christian do a bang up job on vocals. The blues are alive in “Player’s Game” with Skoller blowing some very greasy and cool harp. The beat has a fast tempo and Iguana fills in well; very danceable stuff! “A Woman Like You” follows with the same crew. Collin adds a little country feel to the blues rock and Skoller pumps the harp to make this another hi tempo-ed danceable cut. Collin wails on his guitar and Skoller again blows some great harp. Next up is “Dance the Blues Away,” this time sans harp. Collins delivers another bluesy vocal with Williams big in support. Iguana does double duty here as he did the prior cut, playing piano and B-3. Collin’s “Without You” adds Brian Leach on clavinet. Williams moans as the song intros and Collins adds some funky guitar as the tempo turns to the sultry and sublime. The song is a nice soulful blues ballad as Collins and Williams deliver the good and the two keyboardists and flavor to the punch. Collins’ guitar sings and stings on the solo. The next cut is “Spirit of the Blues,” a deep, slow blues with some poignant guitar to open the cut. Collins then gets into the vocal as he tells us of the spirit and feeling of the blues. Iguana remains solid in support, but Collins delivers the vocals and more sweet licks on his guitar.
Skoller returns on “Highway Song,” a bouncing and driving cut that opens to Collins and Skoller sparring on guitar and harp. This is another impressive performance and song that audiences will get on their feet for. In “Blues for You” Collins delivers a cool mid tempo blues with a driving groove. Collins gives another nice, big solo on his guitar, too, as the pace and intensity build up. “Dead Man Walking” is a slower cut, a dark song that portrays desperation with what the one sheet calls a “hypnotic rhythm.” Can’t argue with that! Very cool. Galanis comes in for the slide on this next one: “Old 109” is a very bouncy song with Skoller adding his harp to the mix. A driving beat, big harp and slide make this one an impressive and hot number! “The River” is an unplugged cut with Billy Branch adding some thoughtful harp to Collins’ finger picking. Delta blues styled, Collins shows a little versatility here. He breaks into a bigger guitar solo and picks up the pace a little and Branch follow s his lead. The album closes with “Forever Friends,” which opens with an almost country sound as the guitar and horns set the tone. Iguana’s B-3 lends a hand to sell that flavor as do Collins’ vocals. It’s a somewhat country blues rock ballad, and is a nice closer for a very good CD. Collins adds his stamp with a big solo and the horns add fullness and smoothness to the cut.
All in all, this a good CD. I’d not heard Christian Collin before that I can recall and I enjoyed his effort here. When I saw all the Chicago players on the CD I was expecting more straight up Chicago blues, but Collins made this his own sound and deliver a dozen well-crafted and interesting songs. It was a very enjoyable listen and I’m sure I will savor it many more times.