10 songs – 31 minutes
Lynchburg, Virgina-based Tommy Cox started on the blues scene in 1992 with the blues trio Tommy C and The Blue Hounds, who released one album, Blues in B-Town, and toured across the South-Eastern US. These days, Cox still plays electric blues in the Tommy C Band, but he also plays traditional acoustic country blues, in a solo, duo or trio format, with Tommy C’s Delta Blues Revue.
Cox has now released Acoustic Blues, a collection of ten all-original songs that does exactly what it says on the tin. Something of a master class in country blues styles, Cox has a strong affinity for both Delta-style blues, as on the opening track, “Buggin’ Me”, where the walking bass is reminiscent of a modern day Willie Brown, or the thumping , Patton-like “Truth Blues”, as well as the Piedmont blues of Blind Boy Fuller and the Reverend Gary Davis, with the complex alternating thumb-picking of “Too Many Mules Kicking In Your Stall”. It is apparent throughout the album that Cox has a authentically solid sound and technique, whether strumming, finger-picking or playing bottleneck on the likes of “Sinking Down” and the Blind Blake-esque “Brand New Pair Of Shoes”.
He is also an intelligent and clever songwriter, keeping all the tracks heavily based in traditional country blues, but with unexpected twists throughout, from the jagged rhythm and note selection of the instrumental “Church House Hollow Rag” to the key change at the very end of “Brand New Pair of Shoes” or the unusual descending chords that appear half-way through “Truth Blues”. On the closing track, “Too Many Mules Kicking In Your Stall”, over-dubbed guitars add an extra layer of rhythmic interest, while “Virginia Highway 29” rocks with a vengeance as Cox hails the joys of living in the Appalachian region.
The vast majority of the songs feature just Cox, his voice and his guitar. He adds spicy harmonica to “Buggin’ Me” and Robert Johnson-esque “Right Your Wrongs”, which sounds like an updated “Sweet Home Chicago”, but the absence of other instruments merely serves to highlight Cox’s superb playing.
He sings in a clear, warm, slightly worn voice that suits the songs perfectly, but it is his guitar playing that really grabs the listener’s attention, with a powerful, muscular assertiveness.
At just over half an hour, Acoustic Blues is not a long album, but this is also part of its attraction. No track overstays its welcome and as it ends, you are left wanting more. Acoustic Blues is a very enjoyable slice of acoustic blues and is highly recommended.