Colin Linden – bLOW
Highway 20/Thirty Tigers – 2021
11 tracks; 47.13 minutes
Canadian Colin Linden returns with a new album, intriguingly titled bLOW, which has the honor of being the first release on Lucinda Williams’ new label Highway 20. Colin is perhaps better known as a producer of over 100 albums and a musical collaborator (having played with Bob Dylan, John Prine and Gregg Allman amongst others) than as a recording artist but has released quite a few solo albums. The origins of these songs here can be found in music for which Colin was commissioned for a TV show. When he had completed the task he felt that some of the pieces could be further developed into songs and he carried on working them up.
Recorded during the Covid pandemic, the album includes contributions from some of his regular bandmates: drummers Gary Craig and bassist John Dymond. from Toronto, Dave Jaques (bass) and Paul Griffiths (drums) having been the rhythm section on the original TV show recordings. Unfortunately full album credits were not supplied with the promo copy for review, so I am assuming that all other instruments (guitar, piano, harmonica) are played by Colin himself.
When he was 11, Colin met Howling Wolf who told him that he had to carry forward the flame, obviously leaving a firm impression on young Colin who still carries a frayed photo of the two of them in conversation. The music on this album is heavier than much of Colin’s solo work, perhaps reflecting aspects of the Wolf’s legacy. The band lays down a heavy beat on opener “4 Cars”, adding to the rush of “four cars speeding to the same crossroads”, as Colin plays some slinky slide. “Ain’t No Shame” is a good example of Wolf’s influence, Colin even including a little howling towards the end!
Colin adds harp to the steady rhythm of a tale of a guy trying to find a place to shelter “Until The Heat Leaves Town” before another Wolf-influenced track, “Angel Next To Me”, the tune of which sounds a little like “How Many More Times” with Colin’s jagged guitar work underpinned by piano stylings. Colin’s solo guitar opens up “Boogie Let Me Be” which does exactly what the title suggests.
There is a gospel feel to “When I Get To Galilee”, a track that brings The Band to mind, especially on the chorus. The title track is based on Colin’s experience of being in a motel in Oklahoma during a tornado, the organ part played by his wife Janice who describes her contribution as being “like a deranged church lady” as Colin plays some nice slide over a chugging rhythm. We get right back to the blues, both lyrically and musically, on “Change Don’t Come Without Pain” as Colin sings about hard times coming along and plays some fine slide guitar.
The rough and tough boogie of “Right Shoe Wrong Foot” channels Bo Diddley and is a particularly strong track with Colin’s hard-riffing guitar over a busy rhythm section – try keeping still to this one! Thunderous drums lead us through Colin’s rocking tribute to “Houston” where he is welcomed by the words “you look like you come from snow” and the album then closes with a superb song. Guitar and harmonica play closely together as Colin reflects on the experience of the pandemic: “Days of darkness, world in trouble, everybody’s living in their own bubble. Keeping the distance, keeping the faith, holding our breath, can’t get no relief. But beyond this moment there’s a song waiting to be sung, with a sound so sweet, like Honey On My Tongue”.
A good album with several excellent tracks and no filler, well worth catching.