CD REVIEW: M&J BLUES – In The Presence Of Friends
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
The Blues may have its origins in black America, but it is arguably the musical form that most channels the intricacies, contradictions and indomitable spirit of the human condition.
M&J Blues are a father & son duo hailing from the cold north of England – Sheffield, to be precise, a city brewing an amazing musical scene right now.
Recorded live in August in front of an enthusiastic crowd with no fixes or overdubs applied, In The Presence Of Friends is raw and real, and as Mark (the younger) and Jeff Lyall tackle a succession of left-of-centre tracks not normally given the full blues treatment, we’re run through a gamut of emotions.
There’s heartache and heartbreak a-plenty, as well as slave blues, cowboy swagger, late night drinking blues, and good, good times as M&J stamp their simple, no frills style – primarily Mark’s lightning fast and full of feeling guitar work, and Jeff’s crooning vocals and accompanying guitar – all over tracks from as diverse a roll call as Leadbelly, J J Cale, Mary Gauthier, Solomon Burke, Sonny Boy Williamson, Willie Nelson, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Steve Earle, Bob Dylan and Odetta.
Some might argue that the northern accent creeping into Lyall-the-Elder’s vocals isn’t so authentic, but I’d argue that it’s evidence of the globality of this music, and the passionate arrangements and delivery of this collection makes the translation to the other side of the world irrelevant: The Blues is world music, and the reaction on this CD from the crowd and listeners at home shows that it has resonance everywhere.
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