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Colin Linden – Still live

CrossCut Records

12 tracks – 56.16 minutes

Colin Linden is Canadian by birth but is now resident in the USA. He has recorded many CDs over the years and has also produced for a variety of acts well known to the blues fraternity, including Janiva Magness and Colin James. As well as writing and producing he continues to record and tour solo, in a small band format and as part of Blackie And The Rodeo Kings. This CD was recorded live in his adopted home town of Nashville with a small ensemble: Colin on guitars and vocals, John Dymond on bass and harmony vocals, Gary Craig on drums and Spooner Oldham on organ. Apart from a lone cover of Howling Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talking” Colin wrote all the material either alone or in collaboration: two with his wife, Janice Powers, two with Jim Weider and one each with Tom Hambridge and Jim Lauderdale.

The album is beautifully recorded and engineered. The audience is respectfully silent throughout the music and the applause at the end of each track is the only reminder that this is a live recording. The material is generally quiet and thoughtful though there are a couple of more upbeat tracks where Colin can unleash some strong electric guitar. “Who’s Been Talking” which features Spooner Oldham’s organ and Colin on slide is the most obvious blues track but there is plenty to enjoy throughout the album. “Smoke ‘Em All” is dedicated to Colin’s late friend, pianist Richard Bell who passed away in 2007. Colin is alone on this one, a jaunty tribute to his friend “A mighty boy with a left hand like thunder, right hand like gold – that mighty boy, he’d smoke ‘em all”. “Remedy” is a rocker with an insistent backbeat, chugging guitar and highlight organ and makes a nice pairing lyrically with “Dark Night Of The Soul”. The songs are played in completely different styles but I found myself linking them: the former is a song about love and desire whereas the latter comes from the other end of the spectrum, the singer offering safe passage in troubled times.

“Too Late To Holler” is another bluesy tune with more of Colin’s distinctive slide guitar and closing track “I Give Up” is a semi-comic song which recounts how the singer has failed on so many aspects of life that he is ready to quit altogether! “Sorry about the too much money I have spent, all the times that I was late with my rent, every dollar that I turned to 50 cents.” Another track I liked a lot was “Between The Darkness And The Light Of Day” with its lyric about finding personal salvation through the power of music. “Sugar Mine” covers salvation in more traditional manner, namely the sweetness of love. The shimmering guitar on this track is a real highlight, recalling Ry Cooder in his prime.

Overall this CD features superb musicianship and lyrics that make you think (not always the case in the blues!). The music here is more Americana than blues but it is a CD I can easily recommend. The final word should go to the US Immigration Service who (according to the sleevenotes) classed Colin Linden as “an alien of extraordinary ability” – that says it all, I think.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a Blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and recently enjoyed the Tampa Bay Blues Festival.

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