Lurrie Bell performs classic blues, for better or worse: there are no surprises, but he delivers the goods with aplomb. If you’re looking for something outside the box, forget it, but if you want a middle-of-the-road shot of guitar blues, straight no chaser, here it is. Bell’s voice is a little scratchy but not too much; his tenor is expressive without going overboard; his guitar playing is twangy and nimble without achieving guitar-god status. The rhythm section keeps the beat, while the horns and keyboards add accents.
Good-time tunes such as “Hey Hey Baby” and “I Just Keep Loving Her” alternate with deeper, slow numbers like “Blues in My Soul”, “Bout the Break of Day” and the epic, piano-heavy “Just the Blues”. Everything is competently performed, but the slow tunes have the edge in how compelling they are. These days, of course, straight-no-chaser blues is getting rare, so there’s no shame in keeping the tradition alive, whether with original tracks or covers of tunes by T-Bone Walker, Otis Spann and others. Like a comfortable shirt or a warm shot of whiskey, these tunes do exactly what they’re supposed to do. Sometimes the last thing you want is a surprise.