Martin Lang & Rusty Zinn – Mr. Blues, Mr. Blues
14 Tracks; 53 minutes
The latest release by harmonica player Martin Lang and guitarist Rusty Zinn is an impressive collaboration by two headliners who have each released numerous records on their own. They emphasized the equality of their contributions through the distribution of two different versions of the album. One version has Zinn’s name first and his photo on the left, and one has Lang’s name first and the location of their photos switched. They shared equally the lead vocals for the album, and the different styles of their singing offers some nice diversity, (with Zinn’s smooth tenor voice alternating with Lang’s gritty sound). Both musicians also provided some original songwriting (although Lang contributed five songs and Zinn only one).
Lang & Zinn recruited nine outstanding musicians to join them on this project, including two extremely sought-after musicians: Johnny Iguana on piano and Rodrigo Mantovani on bass. The album is also produced by the highly respected Dick Shurman. With such a lineup it is not surprising that there is much to love about the album.
Mr. Blues, Mr. Blues opens with an up-tempo, fun song, entitled W-A-S-T-E-D. There are three instrumental songs on the album and one of them, “Mickey”, especially showcases the talent of all the artists, particularly highlighting Iguana’s keyboard work. However, his keyboards might be even more impressive on “You’ve Gotta Stop this Mess”. The second instrumental, “Rose & Kelly’s Boogie” pays homage to the South Side Chicago blues club by that name. And Zinn’s vocals, while always clean and beautiful, particularly shines on his original song, an especially likeable shuffle entitled “Don’t You Want a Man Like Me”.
While all of the tracks are great, the true gems on the album are Zinn’s original, the title track (written by Martin Lang), and Lang’s song about the contradiction between one’s words and one’s actions. That track, “The Things You Say”, offers impressive and tasteful solos by both Zinn and Lang. Mr. Blues, Mr. Blues also offers an excellent rendition of Fenton Robinson’s “Cryin’ the Blues”.
With so many blues bands straying farther and farther toward the rock end of the blues-rock continuum, it is refreshing to hear an album celebrating the classic Chicago blues sound. With the combination of talent on Mr. Blues, Mr. Blues, it is not surprising that there is truly no weak aspect to it, and it is one of the few albums that listeners will play straight through without ever skipping a track. Blues purists in particular will be eager to add this exceptional album to their collection.