The Steve Miller Band has recently issued its second album of blues covers, Let Your Hair Down (Roadrunner Records) a follow-up to Bingo, which I have not heard. Miller has been rooted in the blues (not simply because he covered Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s The Gangster of Love). For example, over forty years ago The Steve Miller Band backed Chuck Berry when Berry appeared at the Fillmore Auditorium resulting in a live Berry recording.
Let Your Hand Down is a nicely done album of blues covers from a variety of sources that feature the last known recordings of harmonica master Norton Buffalo. There are some unexpected selections such as Junior Wells’ Snatch It Back and Hold It, and Jimmy Reed’s Close Together, along with more familiar material such as Just a Little Bit, Can’t Be Satisfied, and No More Doggin’, but why did they have to feel compelled to record Sweet Home Chicago, a song that has been recorded to death and which they add little
Miller sings in a relaxed and unforced manner, if not a deep blues voice, and when the band hits the groove as on the shuffle Close Together, they certainly produce some very striking music even with the buzz-tone guitar. Rosco Gordon’s No More Doggin’, also has a nice groove and Miller rocks nicely on guitar.
Bo Diddley’s Pretty Thing is a nice rock and roll performance with Norton Buffalo’s harp echoing Miller’s vocal while the accompaniment on Muddy Waters’ Can’t Be Satisfied is taken a bit heavier than other performances but there is some nice slide guitar. Better is Willie Dixon’s Love The Life I Live which was written for Muddy and has a biting guitar break. They turn up the tempo on Jimmy McCracklin’s The Walk, that rocks out this album on a strong musical note
It should be noted that the playing on this benefits by its generally understated quality, or at least understated compared to some ‘contemporary blues” which is played much more heavy-handed and over the top. The performances are concise and to the point without excessive soloing. Let Your Hair Down may not break new ground but the Steve Miller Band does an admirable job in these appealing blues covers.
I received my review copy from the record label.