Classic stomping from a living legend.
Here’s a guy that should need no introduction, an artist who has been prolific as a rock and roll artist, a folk singer-songwriter in the 60s, and indeed since that time has been a great advocate of the blues. ‘Stomping Ground’, the latest recording from Dion, a (kind of) follow on to 2020’s ‘Blues With Friends’ is a thing of beauty, with great guests, excellent songs and a cracking vibe, and testament to the longevity of an artist at the top of their game.
The stardust of guests on the record is similar to ‘Blues With Friends’ and includes Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Billy F Gibbons, Keb’ Mo’, Sonny Landreth, Joe Menza, Mike Menza, Marcia Ball, Jimmy Vivino, Wayne Hood, Joe Bonamassa and G.E. Smith, among others. Somewhat surprisingly, there is only one cover on the album, Hendrix’s ‘Red House’, given an admirable makeover, with the remaining songs written by Dion and his writing partner, Mike Aquilina. Special mention should go to Joe Bonamassa, who appears on the first track, ‘Take It Back’, a great rollocking way to open the album, all great guitar licks, understated horns and a typical blues plea for ‘her’ or ‘him’ to “….get out of my mind.” It is also through Joe Bonamassa and Roy Weisman’s KTBA (Keeping the Blues Alive) Records label that the album is being released.
There are standouts all over the record. Dion and Boz Scaggs have tremendous fun as they share alternate lines on ‘I’ve Got To Get To You’, outdoing each other with ever more outlandish transport mode suggestions, including an ice cream truck, a unicycle, a tractor and a pogo stick. ‘There Was A Time’, a slow blues song about regret which makes pleasant use of strings and horns, features Peter Frampton, who has credited Dion with helping him find himself in perhaps the most creative place in his life. Frampton has experienced ill health in recent years and by inviting him to participate in this project it has helped in reversing a physical and mental slump.
Released as a recent single, ‘Angel In The Alleyways’, featuring Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen, on vocals, guitar and harmonica, is almost Native American in sound and rhythm, a spiritual gospel number that truly lifts the spirit. The album closes with yet another standout track, ‘I’ve Been Watching’, a love song duet with Rickie Lee Jones with beautifully understated horns and an exceptional guitar lead by Wayne Hood, a simply marvellous way to close.
It doesn’t all work, however. A couple of tracks feel a little out of place, perhaps a more middle of road version of blues, which is a shame because an album of 14 tracks could easily lose a couple without shortchanging anyone. But that is really being a little picky.
It should be irrelevant to mention age at this point; this is a very good album, first-rate musicians, songs, and production, a record of which anyone should be proud. But it has to be said, Dion is in his early 80s, which seems astonishing. Vocally still strong, writing still relevant, all-round still just there. However he does it, I’ll have a pint of what he’s been drinking.
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