Friday, November 26, 2010

Rob Blaine – Rob Blaine’s Big Otis Blues

After just writing about Derin Dow’s guitar histrionics, I turned around and plopped this spicy dish of hot blues into the player and suddenly my world was swirling in another alternate universe of guitar wizardry.  When  I say that Rob Blaine is a Guitar God, I mean that with two capital “G’s.”  Not only is this a fantastic blues album, it’s just one of the best damn guitar albums I’ve heard all year.  Period.

Rob Blaine is one of those precocious youths that I’d love to hate if they weren’t so damn lovable.  I mean come on, the guy didn’t even get his first guitar until age 15 and by 17 he was already gigging regularly around Michigan and sitting in at Chicago’s famed Rosa’s Lounge.   There, he immersed himself in the heart of the blues, working as a doorman, sound tech, and house musician.  If this was an apprenticeship, it paid off in dividends, because on Big Otis Blues Blaine emerges as a full-on, hurricane force blues guitar hero, a true wresting wind to be reckoned with. 

Signed to the dynamite new Blues Label, Swississippi Records, this is an album no fan of the blues should miss.   You love Joe Bonamassa?  Dig on Kenny Wayne Sheppard?  Got a thing for Jonny Lang, Corey Stevens, or Chris Duarte?  I got a new name for you.  One that’s gonna brand itself indelibly in your inner ear, your heart, and your blues-lovin’ soul.  Rob Blaine.

“Not the Forgiving Kind,” launches us onto that path of blues nirvana in it’s very first second. After a staccato burst of snare, Rob Blaine erupts in flaming guitar glory.  Talk about making a strong first impression!  Dig that tone.  I mean really dig that tone.  Rob’s notes are so meticulously chosen, his playing so intuitive and heart-felt, it’s a blessing to behold.  He tears up and down those frets like a man possessed, never over-playing, dropping in some reverb and nuance, holding notes, sustaining them, bending them . . .heck, he could probably make them do backflips if he wanted.  He can funk it up, he can rock it out, and he can blues it down.  And he can do it all seamlessly.  Yes, he’s that good. 

While it’s so easy to lose yourself in Rob’s playing, let’s not forget that voice.  That oh-so-rough-and-weary voice that bellows out aged way beyond it’s years.  I don’t really know how old this cat is.  From his picture he looks early twenties, but that voice, that beautifully deep, whiskey-weathered baritone is ageless.

Big Otis Blues alternates between fierce rockers like “Not the Forgiving Kind,” and slower, moodier, no-less-stunning blues ballads, like the next cut, “Only Mine.”  Rob shines on both.  On “Only Mine,” his guitar literally cries.  It moans.  It whispers in notes of pain and love. 

“Affection and Pain,” picks the rock back up and, my God, does it rock.  Thick and heavy, searing and sparkling with electricity, this song’s a terror.  Rob’s band locks right in with him, Joewaun “Man” Scott blowing the doors off the bottom end, James Knowles raising the ceiling with his snare and highhat.  This is the way I like my blues, gritty and dirty and hitched onto the back of a roaring Harley.  This song really puts the rock back into the term blues rock.   From there every song is just one killer cut after another, but a special nod has to go out to “Must be Nice,” which makes an appearance in both full-on electric and acoustic versions.  It’s a testament to Rob’s talent that he can play that song both ways, such different versions, and each one hits me just as captivating.  Whether sweaty and full of muscle on electric or nuanced and dramatic on acoustic.  I’m there.  Take me where you want to Rob, I’m there.

Blues lovers, it’s time to sit up and take notice.  Rock lovers, you too.  I don’t care if this is a blues album or not.  The guitar work is so intense, the overall feeling so damn heavy, Big Otis Blues is gonna make it’s appearance on my year end “Best of” list.  Yes, it really is that good.


Buy here: Rob Blaine's Big Otis Blues

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