Luke Winslow-King, “Blue Mesa” (Bloodshot Records)
Don’t look for ferocious twists and turns on Luke Winslow-King’s “Blue Mesa.” Though he well knows life is usually far from trouble-free, this is a collection of soulfully simple and effective songs with a wide range of guitar sounds and a mix of blues, rock, folk and boogie.
Returning to his native Cadillac, Michigan, after a long stint in New Orleans, Winslow-King recorded the album in the Tuscan region of Italy with a band including guitarist Roberto Luti, drummer Chris Davis, keyboard player Mike Lynch and Christian Carpenter on bass.
While its predecessor, “I’m Glad Trouble Don’t Always Last” from 2016, dealt with the breakup of his marriage, the source of his melancholy this time were the deaths of his father and of “Washboard” Lissa Driscoll, one of his New Orleans mentors.
The title track is a gentle road song in farewell mode with a weeping slide guitar, while the character on “Born to Roam” probably won’t even bother saying goodbye. In any case, he’s settled down considerably by “Better for Knowing You,” an admission that things are better when you have someone to share them with.
“Thought I Heard You” is ZZ Top-style boogie with a heart of stone, while “Chicken Dinner” (written with Driscoll) has some cool horns and playful interplay between the guitars. “After the Rain” is another laidback tune, like something from the early 1970s by Taj Mahal or Ry Cooder.
Driscoll also co-wrote opener “You Got Mine” and the album ends fittingly with “Farewell Blues.” Written after his dad’s diagnosis, a combination of violin, slide guitar and accordion bears the burden of the emotions and leaves Winslow-King to express his hurt with a deceptive calm in his voice.
Winslow-King has raised the bar a few notches with every new album and it’s the unadorned and heartfelt sincerity of the songs that elevates “Blue Mesa” above the horizon.
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