Early Blues for a New Time
Following his 2013 debut, Luke Winslow-King’s latest output demonstrates his love for old time genres and a refreshing mix of vocals, live instruments and styles. Everlasting Arms ands deep in the pocket of New Orleans and blues influence, with a little country, a dash of rock, and lots of brass band.
The simplicity Winslow-King uses on this album is striking. Most tracks come across as clean and spacious with hints of color peppered in, such as adding a female vocal counterpoint line, solo instrumental riffs or complex harmonies. Nothing feels crowded, overdone or forced, allowing the music room to breathe naturally.
With instruments found in New Orleans brass bands prominently featured, Winslow-King treats them each as their own voice with as much importance as a vocalist. For example, in a slower tune called “Home Blues,” the trumpet and clarinet are allowed ample time to solo without distraction before they fade back into the fabric, supporting other lines. Voices are layered in gradually, starting with just bluesy guitar and rhythm before adding in trumpet, vocals, and clarinet one at a time. The result avoids overcrowding and allows the contribution these musicians add to shine through. It’s great listening.
Everlasting Arms stands out for its diversity. Beyond the instrumental variety, the genre or style of each track varies across the album. “The Crystal Water Springs” evokes country, “Swing That Thing” has a blues and almost R&B feel, “Domino Sugar” sounds a bit like a rock tune, and “La Bega’s Carousel” is full-blown New Orleans in inspiration. With a 1950’s or 60’s blues vibe, “Cadallic Slim” and its saxophone riffs, backup singers and horns make for an especially fun time.
The lyrics are true to the nature of the album–they prevent distraction with their straightforwardness. “Home Blues” outright says, “Listen good people/I brought a blues for you,” while “Traveling Myself” reports, “And I go traveling/all by myself/gonna be nobody baby/I just wanna be myself/when I go out traveling.” Though on paper the lyrics are perhaps unoriginal or obvious, they leave a lot of room to showcase the notable instrumental work.
A simple construct free of unnecessary frills clear the way for colorful tunes which never sound forced, allowing the genre and each individual voice to shine through on every track. Leaving space for the musicians to do what they do best, whether it’s a wailing clarinet, guitar solo or a male/female vocal duet, Luke Winslow-King’s showcases the best of early blues for a new time.