Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *
Somewhere up past New York City’s 77th Street, digging deep into the Harlem past and roundabout cool, there is a place in which the Blues can be heard to be more than a memory, more than being a place in which the lure of the quick and easy buck can nestle alongside reminisce and virtue. Somewhere in the deep heart of New York’s five boroughs is still the sound of piano driving home the call to the San Francisco coast and the Mississippi heartlands of the put upon working class, that Blues is still a God to reckoned with, that Mitch Woods is still one of the purveyors of the sad lament and truthful bible and with the help of Friends Along The Way, the sound never will diminish in its importance and heart breaking purity.
It is the gathering together of friends in which a person holds their life to account, that the memory of a smoky atmosphere and the cheap easy laugh around the well stocked bar resides as players come to the stage in small venues and ply their trade to acclaim, from there to the supersized and the headiness of self expression, the sense of belonging and the maverick of being cool for everybody to acknowledge, smile at and enjoy as somewhere in the room fingers click in time to the live Blues sound.
When you count amongst the friends such notable musicians as John Lee Hooker, Van Morrison, Taj Mahal, James Cotton, Elvin Bishop, John Hammond, Ruthie Foster, Charlie Musselwhite, Larry Vann, Joe Louis Walker, the fabulous Maria Muldaur, Kenny Neal, Cyril Neville and Marcia Ball, then the songs will take care of themselves, they party all the way from New York to San Francisco, with a lengthy detour to give New Orleans the glory in respect to playfully lull Jazz into submission for a while, and arrive as fresh as a rose given with teenage ceremony to a loved one on the corner of 77th and where the beauty of Harlem further up the line still roars.
In tracks such C.C. Rider, Mother In Law Blues, the bountiful Nasty Boogie, Empty Bed Blues with the broken hearted but still sultry voice of Maria Muldaur in attendance, Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive and Midnight Hour Blues, an album of absolute class opens up for the listener, a generous and arguably truly magnificent insight into Blues at its very best.
Friends Along The Way, without whom live means nothing, without a friend or two to sing the blues with, then the rose once given freely, soon turns sour and old as it is thrown into the trash, the Blues unable to save the sweet gesture of love pronounced. Mitch Woods again shows that the rose can bloom and become greater than just a single stem, with friends like these, the music is a field full of love.
Mitch Woods: Friends Along The Way is released on February 23rd 2018.
Ian D. Hall