Music

John Mayall: Talk About That

British blues father returns with further evidence that he is a truly singular figure in the musical world.


John Mayall

Talk About That

Label: Forty Below
US Release Date: 2017-01-27
UK Release Date: 2017-01-27
Amazon
iTunes

Now 83, John Mayall has been making records for more than 50 years now and though he’s probably never banged down the door of the younger set and experienced the kind of visibility that has caused his name to be whispered with hushed reverence among those who adore adoring elder statesmen, that’s never stopped him from chasing the next great performance or delivering his goods. He does have a dedicated audience, one that’s eager to celebrate his present and future as much as it’s aware of his past. This 11-song collection finds him in fine form and spirits as he offers up a series of soul-slathered tunes that reveal a lifetime of grit and sweat.

The veteran bluesman gets topical in “The Devil Must Be Laughing”, which features some career-high fret work from Joe Walsh. Taking up matters of political and religious extremism, the lyrics are heartfelt and given a passionate workout across more than six simmering minutes of anger and frustration. If the heat gets to be a bit much after that, Mayall takes us to New Orleans for “Gimme Some of That Gumbo” with a playfulness that few performers could muster. “Goin’ Away Baby”, meanwhile, sounds like it could have been recorded either 70 years ago or within the last few minutes, walking the fine line between tradition and breaking new ground in a manner only Mayall could pull off.

The truth is that he excels at the more stripped-down and traditional approach. The clear-eyed “I Didn’t Mean to Hurt You” relaxes into its groove, allowing the singer to find the melody’s sweet spots and to convey the tune’s emotional truths with an honesty that helps elevate it all above cliché. The jaunty closer “You Never Know” offers more of this and its casual pace easily makes it one of the must-hear tracks from this litter. There are other highlights, of course, including the large ensemble stride of “Don’t Deny Me” and the stark raving fun of “Across the County Line”.

Of less interest is the Clapton-meets-Boz Scaggs “Blue Midnight”. Though it doesn’t sound insincere, it sounds less like Mayall being himself than the better cuts. “Cards on the Table” features more ace playing from Walsh, though the slide playing there overwhelms from the start, creating unnecessary competition between the vocals and the six-string and ultimately derailing an otherwise strong number. Still, hearing Mayall strut proudly on “It’s Hard Going Up”, and the title tune gives us more than enough reason to listen.

The former piece sets its lyrical sites on a familiar music business expression about meeting the same faces on the way down as one does on the way up. It speaks to Mayall’s longevity, too, his role as a musical mentor and reliable post in the blues world, one that’s never soared to unfathomable heights but one that has also managed to remain strong in the game while others struggled. Tenacity and class may be the two things that have kept Mayall strong all these years, and both are in ample supply here.

In the end, Talk About That is proof positive that Mayall maintains his standing in the pantheon of great bluesmen whose sense of soul and purpose is indefatigable. Long may he run.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image