14 Dec 2015

Guy Tortora: Bluesman in a Boneyard

Guy Tortora is a wordsmith in the grand tradition of song-writers. Not only are his songs fluent and melodic but without fail, he always has something interesting to say.  He has produced a steady flow of great albums over the years and the last two 'Living on Credit' and 'Prodigal Songs' both contain tracks that deserve to become classics - 'Cotton was King' and 'Willie Dixon'.

With his masterly new album '  Bluesman in a Boneyard' he takes the process a step farther and has produced a collection of his best work yet.  Listening to him being interviewed recently on the Blues and Soul Show, it is pretty clear he is in no hurry to be put in the blues box and refers to this album as being everything from folk, country, blues roots and spiritual as well as that current catch-all term 'americana'.  As he says, the one thing it isn't, is blues-rock - so if you want over-long guitar solos, you will listen in vain. Indeed, one of the reasons I just Love Love Love this album is the way it embraces all of the above with authentic joy, wit and skill.

As if to make the point, the opening track 'The Damage Was Done' is a spirited piece of Dylanesque story-telling set against what can only be described as a piano blues-tango complete with evocative harp work...and to underline his huge range, it closes with the relish of some down home good time cajun zydeco in 'Les Bon Temps'. There are seven original pieces and two covers.

There is plenty of wit on display here too, both acid and ironic, notably the 'Ballad of The Boll Weevil' which tears into the vision of a 'human weevil' and the quite brilliant 'One Way Ticket' which takes sardonic rhyme to new heights (a Cadillac that just comes back!) as a lover struggles with the contradictions of promises made and broken in the same breath.

One of the delights of  this album is the way Guy has managed to wrap up each piece in a distinctive musical arrangement. We are taken from some New Orleans barrel house, via 'Brownsville' - full of delicate pick and slide, through the bluesy and Hammond supported spiritual crossroads journey of 'Boneyard' to the final good time Tennessee dance number. The application of harp, piano, organ,  guitars, trumpets and support brass is absolutely spot on with never a note wasted or overblown.

This is a hugely entertaining and polished album by an artist who knows exactly what he is about and who just gets better and better. The album is out this week - but it is about time we saw a lot more of him live on the British blues circuit.