Laurie McVay – East Side Blues
Reef Bay Records
CD: 12 Songs, 41 Minutes
Styles: Soul Blues, Harmonica Blues, Ensemble Blues
In order to discover the ethos of East Side Blues, the sophomore offering from the UK’s Laurie McVay, flip to the inside of the CD jacket. Its title is whimsically etched in beach sand, a happy white pooch in the midst of it, tongue lolling out. This is the bad-mood killer of all bad-mood killers. On twelve terrific tracks – eleven originals and one cover – Laurie McVay croons his way to soul blues paradise. That’s where listeners will be, even at the start. He also plays searing blues harp that would make Rick Estrin jealous. There’s not one bad or mediocre song on here. Laurie captures the essence of his brand of blues in a fluid, almost effortless manner. It’s hard for Ms. Wetnight to believe this is only his second CD. Quality of this caliber sometimes shows up by one’s third or fourth release, but trust me: McVay absolutely nails it.
Laurie has toured extensively in Britain and Europe with his band the High Rollers. East Side Blues follows his successful debut, My Kind of Blues, released in 2014. The title of his current album is a nod toward one of his heroes, Magic Sam, and Sam’s classic 1967 album West Side Soul. It also relates to McVay’s present home on the east coast of the Isle of Wight in southern England. Laurie describes East Side Blues as “more of a band album and probably more of a straight-ahead blues album than My Kind of Blues.” His influences, along with Magic Sam, include Bobby Bland, Fenton Robinson, and Little Walter.
Performing alongside McVay (vocals, harmonies, blues harp and acoustic guitar) are Andy Charles on lead and acoustic guitar; Stephen J. Parkes on keyboards and piano; Tim Hollis on bass; Graham Matthews on drums, and Miranda Jokel on harmonies.
“All I Ever Wanted” pumps up the beat and listeners’ spirits, hearkening to Delbert McClinton at his best. It’s a perfectly-balanced ensemble number. All the instruments can be heard clearly and crisply, with none outshining the others. Those who don’t dance to this one are six feet under. “Back On My Feet Again” and “When You Were Mine” follow, showcasing Laurie’s respective talents on harmonica and postmodern blues shredder. After that comes a funky cover of Willie Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie Man,” featuring Graham Matthews’ catchy rat-a-tat drums. The real stunners, however, are tracks five and eight, putting the SOUL in soul blues. The former is a poignant ballad about what happens when an ex-lover won’t depart, even one’s slumbering mind. “You’ve been haunting all my days. Won’t you leave my dreams alone?” The notes of the guitar solo in the middle fall like a gentle shower of rain that turns into a thunderstorm. The latter, “Can We Leave It Until the Morning?”, is smooth and vocally brilliant, an indictment of a lying partner. “Never go to bed angry,” goes the proverb, but methinks the narrator will still have a beef come breakfast time. “I Hear You Calling” and “Monroe Blues” are great closers.
In a melancholy mood? Let the UK’s Laurie McVay brighten your day with East Side Blues!