John Mayall – Talk About That | Album Review

John Mayall – Talk About That

Forty Below Records FBR 015

11 songs — 48 minutes

John Mayall enlisted the aid of a Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer for Talk About That, his latest release in a career that stretches back to the early ’60s, but have no fear! With James Gang/Eagles superstar Joe Walsh along for the ride, the undisputed Godfather Of British Blues delivers a heaping portion of the music four generations of fans have come to know and love.

Now approaching his 84th birthday, Mayall didn’t embark on a music career until his late 20s. An art school graduate, he was influenced as a guitarist by Big Bill Broonzy, Josh White and Brownie McGhee, by Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis as a keyboard player and Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter and Sonny Terry as a harmonica player, but was working as a graphic artist in 1962 when he learned that Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies opened the first blues bar in Britain.

That was all John needed to hear. He relocated from Manchester to London and began assembling what would become the Bluesbreakers. After a rocky start, the ensemble became one of the most influential bands in the world of blues with a lineup that included Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce before they founded Cream and Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie before going off on their own as Fleetwood Mac.

A California resident since the late 60s, fronting the Bluesbreakers until retiring the name in 2008. Since then, he’s been working in a tight four-piece ensemble that includes Texan Rocky Athas on lead and rhythm guitar with Chicagoans Greg Rzab and Jay Davenport on bass and percussion. Like the four CDs that preceded it, Talk About That is on Mayall’s own Forty Below Records imprint. It’s the 65th album in his storied career, and he designed the packaging himself.

Walsh, who’s always considered John to be one of his music heroes, sits in on two of the eight originals Mayall wrote for the disc. Rounding out the sound are a horn section comprised of Ron Dziubla (saxes), Mark Pender (trumpet) and Nick Lane (trombone).

The album kicks off with the original, “Talk About That,” a steady, steady, stripped-down driving blues rap in which Mayall sings his own praises: “I’m a good-looking fella/Some women tell me so/Many respectable ladies/Comin’ through my front door/…Things could be a bit different/With age, I’ve been told/But I don’t care a damn thing about that/You can say what you think about/Talk about that.”

So there!

The horns join the action for “It’s Hard Going Up (usually subtitled But It’s Twice As Hard Coming Down),” a tune written by Memphis songsmith Bettye Crutcher and made popular by harp player Little Sonny, before Walsh sits in on “The Devil Must Be Laughing,” a burning slow blues that recounts a nightmare in which fanatics kill innocents. The dream becomes realty when Mayall reads the newspaper the next morning.

“Gimme Some Of That Gumbo” serves up a taste of New Orleans and brightens the mood dramatically as the horns drive the tune forward before John takes out his harp and covers “Goin’ Away Baby,” Jimmy Rogers’ familiar Chicago blues standard. Walsh returns to action for “Cards On The Table,” a medium-tempo walking blues, before Mayall slows things down again with the ballad “I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You.”

“Don’t Deny Me,” written by rocker Jerry Lynn Williams, gets the full horn treatment before three more originals — “Blue Midnight,” about the sudden departure of a lover, “Across The County Line,” an uptempo horn/harmonica number, and “You Never Know,” an easy-going piano blues — bring the set to a close.

Available through all major marketers Talk About That proves once again that Mayall is a musical treasure. It’s comfortable, yet fresh throughout — and strongly recommended.

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