Blues Bytes


January 2017

Rolling Stones
Blue & Lonesome

Rolling Stones

A while back, the Rolling Stones were checking out Mark Knopfler’s studio in London. To acclimate themselves to the sound and surroundings, the band started playing Little Walter’s “Blue and Lonesome.” That sounded so good that the band decided to play a few more blues covers and soon ended up with their first album in eight years, Blue & Lonesome (Interscope/Polydor), which is also their first all-blues album.

The blues has always been at the core of the Stones’ rocking sound, even when they ventured into various other musical styles during their 50-plus years. You can sense this when you hear the band rip through these 12 cover tunes. There’s no attempt to put a modern spin on any of these tracks …. these tracks are as raw and unvarnished ass you will possibly ever hear on a Rolling Stones album at this juncture of their career, and come close to capturing the essence of their original versions.

Guitarist Keith Richards and Ron Wood strictly do it by feel and they complement each other so well. Drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Darryl Jones provide a bedrock rhythm backing, along with longtime collaborator Chuck Leavell and Matt Clifford on keys. Mick Jagger provides all of the lead vocals and also blows some fiery harp on multiple tracks. Guitar legend Eric Clapton also contributes slide and lead guitar on two tracks (he was recording his recent album in the same studio at the same time).

Several of the tracks were either written by and/or performed by Little Walter (“Just Your Fool,” “I Gotta Go,” “Hate To See You Go,” and the title track), but there are also tunes associated with Howlin’ Wolf (“Commit a Crime,” “Just Like I Treat You”), Eddie Taylor (“Ride ‘em On Down”) , Jimmy Reed (“Little Rain”), Otis Rush (“I Can’t Quit You Baby”), and Magic Sam (“All of Your Love”). There’s also a take on Lightnin’ Slim’s “Hoo Doo Blues” and the Z.Z. Hill soul/blues chestnut “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing.”

Though the Stones have at times moved away from this music, they’ve really never stopped playing it, and when you stop and think about it, they’ve been playing the blues as long as many of their musical idols. This music has seeped into their pores over time and is basically part of their DNA at this point.

The album itself was recorded in three days and it’s obvious from the first note that this can only be a labor of love. You could call it a “return to their roots,” if you want, but this sounds so good that it’s clear that the Rolling Stones never left them in the first place.

--- Graham Clarke
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