In my first couple of posts in this new blog, I hope you’ve noticed, I’ve been writing about enjoying great old blues in the Time of Covid.
This doesn’t mean that there’s no new music floating around. Indeed, new albums seem even more welcome now — a breath of fresh blues when they’re needed the most.
All of which is just a long-winded way of telling you that I’m ready to write about a new album. I don’t really consider myself a music critic, but I have been writing about music, mostly blues and blues-related music for many years, even decades, maybe.
It’s probably more accurate to say that I review music — at clubs, concerts, festivals and on albums. By review, I mean that I like to tell you about it, give you some of my thoughts, and hope that you’ll listen and make your own judgements. And by albums, I mean just about any collection of music, from vinyl to eight-tracks to cassettes to CDs or DVDs and back to vinyl. And of course, streaming.
If you’ve read the headline, you already know this is a review of “Sweet Memories” (Sprucewood Records), the new album from Pittsburgh’s fine blues guitarist, Jimmy Adler. His dues were long ago paid in full, with a swinging guitar style and fierce chops. His last album, the 2015 “Grease Alley,” was great example of both.
This time, he’s taken a whole new approach, shifting into a subtle, laid-back musical groove, beautifully coupled with reflective and evocative songwriting.
The rough draft of the album was created in his kitchen, with an acoustic guitar and lots of songwriting — all the songs are originals, with a nod to places and events that had to come out of his own sweet memories.
The opening cut, a richly layered “Voodoo Doll,” sets the tone, as the album’s musical styles roam from the down-home blues of “She Got What It Takes,” through a rustic, personal vibe in “This Old House” all the way to the sensual slide work of “North Carolina,” his open-road ode to the Outer Banks.
Adler manages to work in all kinds of memories, from back porch dancing toWolfman Jack on “On the Back Porch” to a bunch of guitars, cars and movie stars on the track of the same name, “Guitars, Cars and Movie Stars.” (He’s even got a ‘56 Chevy in there, one of my personal favorites.)
If the creative songwriting wasn’t enough, Adler’s guitar work, from acoustic to slide, is a pleasure all by itself. It’s languid and sensual throughout, wrapping the lyrics snugly inside.
And it’s not always blues. Adler easily reaches into other idioms — “This Old House” has an easy folk vibe. “Don’t Give Up on Me” is laconic country-flavored effort.
All in all, this is another fine album from Adler, as he broadens his range and shows off an excellent pairing of songwriting and musical arrangements.
Here’s a video of “This Old House”:
The album is available from Adler’s web site, and through streaming services:
I wasn’t writing back when Adler released “Grease Alley,” but I can tell you that I enjoy the hell out of listening to it. I was writing earlier, when he recorded “Midnight Rooster” (love that title!), and here’s a link to what I said then.
“Sweet Memories” tracklist
01. Voodoo Doll
02. On the Back Porch
03. How Long
04. Guitars, Cars, And Movie Stars
05. This Old House
06. Let’s Have a Party
07. Don’t Give up on Me
08. The Masked Marvel
09. North Carolina
10. Stuck in Cincinnati
11. She Got What It Takes