Stevie And The Blue Flames – Destination: Blues | Album Review

Stevie And The Blue Flames – Destination: Blues

Self-release

www.stevieandtheblueflames.com

11 songs – 41 minutes

Stevie and The Blue Flames have been a fixture in Seattle since the 1980s and have released over 10 full length albums over the years. Destination: Blues is their latest release and a fine addition to their catalogue, with 10 original tracks and an excellent cover of Elmore James’ classic “Stranger Blues”.

Steve Bailey is the frontman and heartbeat of the band, writing all the songs in addition to providing lead vocals and harmonica on every track and adding rhythm and/or slide guitar to three of them. He is joined by a variety of musicians, including core band members Steve Blood (guitar) and Ray Hartman (bass), together with Richard Newman (guitar) and David Hudson (drums) on six songs each. Additional musicians include Patrick McDanel, James Clark and Al Cantey on bass, Carl Martin, Marty Lockwood and Scott Gordon on drums, guitarist Curtis Smith, Dennis Ellis on sax, and pianist Dan Newton.

Destination: Blues is top drawer, modern, harmonica-led blues. Bailey is an outstandingly expressive harp player and he sings in a sly, witty, conversational style not unlike the great Rick Estrin and indeed the album often recalls the likes of Estrin’s Nightcats or Sugar Ray and the BlueTones. Producer and engineer, Richard Newman, has captured a great live sound and some splendid performances.

The album kicks off with the wildly swinging “Blue Flames Bar B Que” advertising what sounds like a raucous house party, with Lockwood absolutely nailing the drum groove. That leads nicely into the toe-tapping “Every Dog Has His Day” in which the emotionally put-upon Bailey notes that “every dog has its day and I wonder when it’s gonna be mine.”

“First Class Fool” features some choice interplay between Bailey’s harp and the guitars of Newman and Blood, while the funky “Blues Comes A Callin'” highlights Bailey’s clever knack of writing modern blues songs that sit wholly within the genre but rarely rely on a straight-forward 12-bar structure.

The majority of the tracks are upbeat, danceable numbers that will no doubt work superbly in a live setting. Indeed, on the basis of this release, if you’re in the Seattle region, you need to hunt out this band wherever they are playing. The primitive rock’n’roll of “Let Me Go” features a cool slide solo from Bailey, while the instrumental, “Slim And Love Dealers” allows him to really stretch out on harmonica and “Tell Me When” has some of the grit of Britain’s Dr. Feelgood and a neat key change leading into the guitar solo.

The only time the band slows the pace (but not the intensity) is on the Mississippi blues of “Unemployment Blues”, which features one of the best harp solos you’ll hear all year as Bailey really gives it his all.

The album ends on the one-chord John Lee Hooker-esque “Down And Out”, with another ace harp solo, a fitting closing to a really impressive release. Well worth checking out.

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