Doug MacLeod – A Soul To Claim
After many visits to Memphis with the Blues Music Awards and other work with the Blues Foundation, Doug MacLeod decided to move to that area and settle down in Tennessee, giving up the West Coast for a home on the Mississippi River. This album is inspired by his move and his new home. It is a fine set of a dozen new songs highlighting the grand story telling abilities of this master blues man. No one can weave a story line into melodic lyrics and a fine musical accompaniment like Mssr. MacLeod can. Here we have a mix of Doug delivering to us some truly outstanding pieces of music for us to savor and enjoy over and over again.
His early days as a sideman to the likes of George Harmonica Smith and Peewee Crayton are long gone. Over 30 years have past, nearly two dozen studio albums have been made, several live recording have emerged and even a DVD. He did time in LA as a popular radio host, wrote for ten years for Blues Revue Magazine, but it is the music he creates that is most memorable and loved. He lives the music he creates. That is the mark of a true blues man.
The title tracks gets things started. It’s a dark and cool cut about addiction; the devil is looking to claim souls and he takes them when you get hooked. It’s electric, has a great groove to it and presents a great story and a highly listenable hit song for all to enjoy. Next up is a whimsical Doug MacLeod sort of tune entitled “Be What You Is.” “If you do what you ain’t, you ain’t what you is” is the premise of this cut, another great philosophical gem from MacLeod. His body of work often offers up stuff like this song; I, like all his fans, love them.
He goes down home with “Money Talks,” a straight up acoustic blues with fingerpicking goodness and Doug’s great vocals, Doug doing what he does best. “Where Are You” follows, a somber ballad with cool accompaniment that talks about the travesty of returning veterans that get lost and left out after they return home. It’s a powerful message delivered with emotion. “Dodge City” is next, not a song about the wild west but about the Nation’s Capital where the elected residents spend their time avoiding answering questions or for their action. It’s a slick acoustic cut with MacLeod again telling his story as only he can. Next is “Smokey Nights and Faded Blues,” a song that hearkens back to Doug’s electric blues days playing at Reuben’s where many a west coast Blues great would stop in and play.
“Only Porter At The Station” is a cut where Doug tells us we can help someone by picking up their baggage and being their personal porter, a great act of love. It’s a mid-tempo boogie with forthright vocals. MacLeod moved to the Memphis area and here writes and plays about his home on Mud Island, a sand bar in the Mississippi River that he calls home. A quiet instrumental, Doug gives us a musical image of looking out and taking in the beauty of where he lives. Next is “Dubb’s Taking Disappointment Blues,” another one of Doug’s great story songs. Here he gives us an amped up story about his old, woman chasing days that starts out promising but quickly turns disappointing as the woman sets the mood, disrobes and then begins disassembling herself. One has to laugh as Doug shifts from thinking he’s scoring on the very first move to complete disappointment- it’s a hilarious song.
“Grease The Wheel” is a story that Doug tells where we need to do some work in order to succeed, greasing our own wheel, so to speak. If you want things to change, well, then grease that wheel. Another story from Doug’s days chasing women during his Navy days is “Somewhere On A Mississippi Highway.” Stationed in Millington, Tennessee, Doug was venturing out past Memphis into Mississippi to see if his luck would change. He didn’t find love but he found a great time, although he doesn’t remember exactly where it was. His inimitable story telling style once again gives us a winner as he describes the fun night in this $5 cover charge roadhouse joint with pool, fine soul food and music. The final cut is about his son’s second battle with cancer. He was staying with friends in the Philadelphia area on a Sunday night. He was unable to sleep, worrying about what laid ahead for his boy. He was out on the deck, calling on the higher power to guide him and those taking care of his son. The next day he got the news that his son and his wife got the good news that his condition was treatable, and now almost two years later his son has beaten cancer again. It’s a beautiful cut filled with emotion and love. The title tells us, “There Is Always Love.”
It’s hard to think that after all this great music there would be more gas in the tank to create new and amazing stuff. MacLeod never rests on his laurels and here we see and hear him giving us an amazing new album of music that will once again turn heads and garner attention. Kudos to this old sailor and great human being for giving us another superb album of music that we can enjoy again and again.