John Durr – Fading Rainbow Blues | Album Review

John Durr – Fading Rainbow Blues

Black Market Music

10 songs, 40 minutes

Acoustic Blues albums can be tricky. The solo guitar and voice thing has to be burned into the performer’s body and come out as a natural extension of the self. Catfish Keith, Kelly Joe Phelps, Cory Harris, Rory Block, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Eric Bibb, Doug McCloud – these modern masters can do it. For the rest of us, we need to augment, hedge our bets, to ensure we are making something engaging and entertaining. John Durr, Australian Blues producer and record label founder/owner, is very upfront about needing to rely on friends to ensure his first solo record, and first record he’s played on in over 30 years, Fading Rainbow Blues comes across vibrant and high quality. Fiddle, mandolin, banjo and viola add to Durr’s plaintive yawl and acoustic guitar resulting in a record that sounds pleasantly out of time.

John Durr is a Bluesman out of the various backwoods traditions of Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Boy fuller and Charlie Patton. Singing with a lugubrious wailing timber, Durr delivers 10 renditions of classic Blues and traditional reinterpretations. The flourishes of fiddle, mando and banjo give Durr’s performances depth and complexity, which Durr admits he was in need of after many years of “rust” build up on his guitar chops. Although self-deprecating, Durr’s playing is perfect for the setting and allows for his off kilter vocal styling to come through effectively. The flourishes are added by Anne Harris on violin and mandolin, Jimi Hocking on mandolin and Jenny M. Thomas on fiddle, banjo and viola.

This is a fun record to listen to straight through. If you are in a rural setting the music will waft over you like the scent of pine, soil and flower blossoms. Reworkings of Charlie Patton’s “Pony Blues,” and John Hurt’s “Candyman Blues” bring rhythm and front porch fiddling to the solitary originals. Original Blues “Love in Vain Blues” (decidedly not Robert Johnson’s famous song) and the title track, an extrapolation of a Ma Rainey line, showcase Durr’s ability to create within the confines of the traditional acoustic Blues form.

Fading Rainbow Blues is a collection of well known music. Even the original songs deal with recognizable structures and material. This record is a success because Durr doesn’t try to redress this music in some kind of new façade. Durr presents the music to the best of his abilities with as much conviction and personality as possible. By doing so John Durr has created a lasting piece of music, an original creation of traditional music. That is quite a feat in this tricky medium.

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