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Reviewed by Sammy Jay Dawson

Al Witham: Angel Bones

Reviewed by Sammy Jay Dawson

Al Witham: Angel Bones

Rumbling along like Chicago’s electric blues scene never waned, Al Witham’s follow-up to his 2009 ‘Faultlines’ is stripped back, swampy and groovy. There’s more than a few layers of whisky stain to Witham’s howl, and more than a few nods to the boogie of John Lee Hooker as well as the theatrics of Screaming Jay Hawkins. ‘Angel Bones’ is almost hypnotic in its consistency. For 58 minutes it smolders away, boogeying along at a steady pace – sadly never really ramping up the way you think it will. Which isn’t to say the likes of France Blues, Grumpy Bones or Talk About An Angel aren’t cracking blues tunes, or that the album isn’t anything less of a great lesson on Kiwi blues, but a bit more dynamic interest would really have made this a must-listen. Witham wrote or co-wrote all but two of the 13 tracks, recorded and mixed the album, plus took lead on vocals, guitars, slide, bass and percussion. So this is definitely an Al’s garage recording, and presumably just as he meant it to be, right down to the super-simplistic cover design. Jack Cronnie added drums to a couple of tracks, Brian Romeril likewise with cornet and tenor sax, while Julia Truscott provided backing vocals on two songs. Blind Lemon Jefferson’s classic See That My Grave Is Kept Clean gets a whispered makeover, but again falls ever so shy of its promise. Seeing as Witham possesses a wonderful set of pipes and a cracker swamp guitar reverb, it seems a shame to see him not living up to his evident recording potential. • Sammy Jay Dawson

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