Rootsy, country, Americana, delta blues
Blue Mesa, the sixth album from delta blues veteran Luke Winslow-King, was released on Bloodshot Records on May 11. The album as a whole is very bluesy yet relaxed, but it’s hard to exactly pin-point Winslow-King’s genre, as he’s got a little of everything in his music. Living much of his adult life in Louisiana after moving south from Cadillac, Michigan, there’s a strong delta blues resonance, while there’s also tinges of country (“Farewell Blues”), R&B (“Thought I Heard You”), gospel (“You Got Mine”) and rock (“Born to Roam”).
As mentioned before, “You Got Mine” features some very calming gospel influences from a subtle keyboard work and a background chorus oohing and ahh-ing along. But there’s still a nice country sound within it with Winslow-King’s low, raspy voice and a killer guitar solo.
There’s a nice collection of slow and faster tracks on Blue Mesa that don’t bog down the album in one particular tempo and doesn’t particularly jar the listener while listening either. You get a good few juking and driving songs like “Leghorn Women,” “Born to Roam” or “Thought I Heard You” to give you a taste of ZZ Top, Deep Purple and John Lee Hooker.
You also get a few softer, ballad-type intimate tracks like “Better for Knowing You,” the title track “Blue Mesa” and “Break Down the Walls” where Winslow-King croons in an audible whisper. The latter of the three songs is a smooth waltz with a nice lyrical message, but it can be said that Winslow-King is a little too chill in his delivery. It would have been great for him to go a little bit louder in his delivery to really drive this song home.
All that said, the last few tracks of this album are where Blue Mesa hits its stride. “Chicken Dinner” has a nice groove, co-written by the late Lissa Driscoll, who Winslow-King dedicated the album to, the track has a very cool feel between the addition of horns and muted notes.“After the Rain” has another nice, chill rhythm that makes for a really enjoyable listen. Winslow-King’s voice fits this minimal, simple rhythm perfectly. The farewell track, aptly titled “Farewell Blues,” has a slightly unexpected inclusion of violin accents to cap-off the end of Winslow-King’s lyrics. It ends the album with a bit of a country flair and is reminiscent of “City of New Orleans.”
Blue Mesa is an album that sounds like the Black Keys as much as it sounds like delta blues from deep in the bayou. It’s hard to put a finger on what makes this album stand-out, but between the serene blues and lead-foot movers and shakers, it’s worth checking out for yourself.