13 songs – 37 minutes
Harvey Dalton Arnold is probably best known as the bass player, songwriter and singer of southern-rock band, The Outlaws, from 1976-80, with whom he toured the world and sold several million albums. In 2005, Arnold was diagnosed with head, neck and tongue cancer but, thankfully, after a year of treatment, he recovered his health and rediscovered his passion for music. Since then, he has focussed on his first and true love, playing and singing the blues. He leads the Harvey Dalton Arnold Blues Band, based in his native North Carolina, and has now released his first solo acoustic blues album. And it’s a little beauty.
Recorded on 15 February 2013, at Music Maker Studios, Hillsborough, NC, Outlaw features a nice mix of old, traditional blues songs and Arnold’s own songs, which are themselves heavily rooted in the blues. The release was recorded by Raphaël Evrard and produced by Timothy Duffy, who have achieved a warm, clear production. Remarkably, all 13 songs were recorded in one continuous take, but the quality of the playing and singing is consistently impressive throughout.
The album opens with Tampa Red’s “Love Her With A Feeling”, sounding as if it had been recorded by Freddie King accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Other well-known songs include “Blow, Wind”, “Worried Life Blues”, and “Big Road Blues”. Some, like Tommy Johnson’s “Big Road Blues”, are pretty faithful reproductions of the original versions (albeit played a little faster). “Blow Wind Blow”, re-named here as “Blow, Wind”, however, is given a choppy, strummed rhythm that is quite distinct from Muddy Waters’ original.
The album does not come with a credit listing, which is a shame for those who enjoy digging into the minutiae of who wrote which song (this omission may apply to the press copies only, of course). On the other side of the same coin, it can be quite entertaining to expect a song entitled “Cold And Lonesome” to be a cover of the Jimmy Reed classic, but then to realise that it is a slide guitar-driven, very bluesy cover of the Outlaws’ song of the same name.
Arnold displays a sly wit in his lyrics, for example “I Got You”, which seems on first listen, to be a declaration of love for a woman. On repeated listening, however, it seems he is actually proclaiming his love for his guitar, which is why he “don’t need nobody”, as opposed to not needing nobody else….
Despite being a fine slide guitarist, Arnold does not take many solos, which is partly a reflection of the fact that there is no over-dubbing on the album: just one man, a guitar and his voice. It is also because this is a pretty traditional album where the guitar provides the rhythm and supports the voice, in particular by echoing vocal melody lines. While it may not be used as a lead instrument on Outlaw, Arnold’s guitar is a top class rhythm instrument, with songs such as “Louis McGee” or “Just Don’t Do It” establishing an irresistible toe-tapping rhythm. The icing on the cake, however, is Arnold’s voice, which convincingly conveys the pain, passion and humour of the songs, often effortlessly switching to a beautiful falsetto with a haunting vibrato. There are no false affectations here. This is the voice of man who has seen the darker side of life, but who has come out the other side.
Warmly recommended for fans of traditional acoustic blues. Certainly, it has encouraged this listener to dig out some of Arnold’s other blues-based releases. Great stuff.