Talk About That
Forty Below Records
As not one that gets overly excited by John Mayall recordings, I did find his latest album, "Talk About That," a very entertaining one. His vocals, keyboards and harmonica are supported by Rocky Athas on guitar, Greg Rzab on bass and Jay Davenport on drums with Eagles/ James Gang guitarist Joe Walsh guesting on two selections. His previous new recording "Find a Way To Care," with a number of covers, struck me as mediocre whereas this new release with mostly his own songs strikes me as much better and his band plays strongly in support of him.
The title track opens this album with a funky groove and Athas and Rzab providing interesting backing riffs as Davenport lays down a hard groove. Horns are added to "It's Hard Going Up," with a lyric about hard going up, but twice as hard coming down, and his piano sounds better here than other recent recordings while the band keeps things tight. Joe Walsh contributes lead guitar to "The Devil Must Be Laughing," a slow topical blues that shows Walsh hasn't lost his blues touch from playing in Cleveland bars nearly five decades ago. "Give Me Some of That Gumbo," finds Mayall in a Crescent City groove with the horns adding to the flavor, and followed by a very nice low key cover of Jimmy Rogers' "Goin' Away Blues." Walsh returns with the slide lead on "Cards on the Table," set against a strutting groove.
"I Didn't Mean To Hurt You," is an appealing slow blues ballad with Mayall singing with much emotion while "Don't Deny Me," is a solid blues in the vein of Little Willie John and Chuck Willis even though Mayall is not a singer on their level. "Blue Midnight" has a nice swampy feel created by Mayall's electric piano and Athas' guitar riff. Athas also takes a strong, well-constructed solo here along with one by Mayall. "Across the County Line" is a lively shuffle with horns added behind Mayall's vocal and harp playing with another terrific Athas guitar solo. "You Never Know" has a philosophical lyric and jazzy feel. On this, Mayall's vocal and piano are backed only by bass and drums (Davenport using brushes) closing one of Mayall's better recent recordings.
I received my review copy from a publicist. I have made a few corrections from the review as it originally appeared in the March-April 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 371). Here is a video on the making of this recording.