It takes no more than the churning slo-burn of the opening cut, Cherry Red, to convince you that this is what Mickey Thomas was born to do: the blues. I at first passed up the opportunity to review the disc because I thought "Cah-mon! Mickey Thomas?!? The shrill popster who took the Jefferson Starship into dog whistle territory? Yeah, he did good with Elvin Bishop, but are we serious here?" Then the Blind Racoon people sent out a great review by another crit and sold me. Good thing, too, 'cause the Bluesmasters themselves are a discovery also worth making if you haven't yet. Among other merits, they imported Aynsley Dunbar to pound the skins, a cat whose presence alone will convince me to listen to whatever I'm looking at, from UFO reunions to this grounded little gem (and, hey, try to get ahold of Aynsley's righteous old Retaliation LPs; it's murder!).
A number of standards are covered in The Bluesmasters, including one of my all-time faves, Third Degree. West, Bruce, and Laing knocked it out of the ballpark when tackling the gig, heavy as hell and then some, but Thomas takes an opposite tack, following Tim Tucker's raw blues guitar lead in, he's almost a Southern lounge lizard, chilled out and pensive, seductive. Tucker plays all around Thomas' vocals, and Ric Ulsky provides a gin tank middle eight, stretching the smoky bartender atmosphere even further. Backtrack a cut to Robert Johnson's Walkin' Blues, with its sweltering slide and bass pulse, Doug Lynn wailin' on the harp, and Thomas blends rock with soul, ampin' up to hit the mood with a velvet hammer. He's covering a lot of bases.
This is hands-down the best thing Mickey Thomas has ever done. He may make a bankful of cash with that other trash, but blues is where he belongs. Don't know if the band is going to install him on a permanent basis, but it wouldn't be a bad idea, not at all…and, if not, then the guy needs to reunite with Elvin, Elvin needs to saunter back to his Butterfield days, and the two can look at going over the top once again, 'cause I got me a feelin' they'd be real damn serious this time out.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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