The Blues White Album
Sometimes you take chances, and they pay off, and sometimes they don’t. Mark this interpretation of the classic Beatles album down as a noble attempt that didn’t really work. The idea is sound enough: gather some of the leading lights of contemporary blues and let them loose on some Lennon and McCartney chestnuts. The only problem is, most of these songs aren’t blues songs, and because they are so familiar to our ears, they don’t really work too far removed from their origins. Take Jimmy Thackery’s version of “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road.” Granted, it’s as close to a filler song as anything the Fabs ever recorded, but Thackery’s version is a plodding, dull mess. Likewise for Maria Muldaur and her take on “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” She’s a stellar vocalist, but transforming the song into a generic blues shuffle doesn’t really work. The backing band includes ex-Saturday Night Live bandleader G.E Smith, who plays well enough, particularly if you don’t have to see his preening, posing mug while he’s doing it. Co-hort T-Bone Wolk plays bass and adds a by the numbers attempt at “Don’t Pass Me By,” which isn’t particularly bluesy, or good, for that matter.
All this said, the disc does have some highpoints. Chris Duarte does a wicked version of “I’m So Tired,” and Anders Osborne drips venom on “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” Colin Linden (remember him from Down From the Mountain?) picks a dandy resonator guitar on “Blackbird,” which is a nice contrast to the zillions of people who use the song as Guitar 101. As good as the good stuff here is, three cuts out of 10 might be a good batting average in the majors, but probably isn’t enough to warrant picking this thing up.
Telarc Records: http://www.telarc.com