Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Billy Flynn Takes the Lonesome Highway

Billy Flynn
Lonesome Highway
Delmark Records

As Tom Hyslop observes, for all the recordings Billy Flynn has played on for Delmark over several decades “it is hard to believe” that this release is first his for the label as a leader which places him in the spotlight, not simply as the fluid, straight no chaser, blues guitarist (and harmonica player and percussionist), but as a songwriter and an able vocalist. With a core backing band of Roosevelt Purifoy on keyboards, E.G. McDaniel on bass and Andrew ‘Blaze ’ Thomas on drums, Flynn contributes sixteen idiomatic originals along with a cover of “The In Crowd.” Several tracks employ horns and Deitra Farr duets with him on two selections.

Flynn has provided a nice variety of songs which provides him a chance to display his versatility as a guitarist with a dash of harmonica as well. There is a rock and roll flavor to his guitar (evocative of Chuck Berry who just passed away as I write this) on the opening “Good Navigator,” which is a delightful duet with Farr. “Small Town” is a nice, low-key performance with a sober vocal and guitar suggestive of Earl Hooker with a dash of harmonica for good measure. The title track is a strong Otis Rush styled West Side Chicago blues with a strong vocal and some superb Rush-like guitar soloing, while the instrumental take of The ‘In’ Crowd" is a driving instrumental (shades of Jimmy Dawkins) with some strong organ under Flynn’s funky mix of chords and single note runs. Another solid West Side Styled blues is ”The Lucky Kind."

Hold On,” with more harmonica, is another duet with Farr set to a Jimmy Reed groove with crisply played guitar (echoes of Eddie Taylor) and harmonica breaks. “Jackson Street” sounds inspired by Robert Nighthawk’s “Jackson Town Gal” and Flynn adds some solid Nighthawk influenced slide guitar, while the rollicking “Long Long Time” is akin to J. B. Lenoir’s “How Much More.” The funky “I Feel ‘Um“ opens with Christopher Neal’s booting tenor sax with some jazz-inflected playing akin to Fenton Robinson. The instrumental ”Blues Express“ finds Flynn’s string-bending suggesting Freddie King, while his guitar playing and deliberate vocal on ”Sufferin’ With the Blues” is modeled after Albert King, and his playing emulates B.B. King on the closing “Christmas Blues.”

In addition to his chameleon like ability to suggest a number of legendary blues guitarists, Flynn’s idiomatic originals,  choice harmonica playing and  natural, heartfelt singing, make this a gem of a recording. It does not hurt to have such crisp backing throughout on this gem of a new blues album.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here is Billy Flynn in performance.

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