The Blues, a largely African-American musical form born in the American south, has undergone a number of necessary transformations in the century or so since its first appearance on the cultural landscape. From the Delta Blues of Charley Patton, Son House, and Bukka White to the Chicago Blues of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Walter, and on to the Jump Blues of Louis Jordan and Big Joe Turner; From Tommy Johnson to Robert Johnson, from Albert King to B.B. King, the Blues has evolved and endured.
During the 1950s and 60s, the Blues migrated across the Atlantic, and captured the hearts of (almost exclusively white) British listeners. The exotic sounds that emanated from radios and record players led to formation of groups like the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Small Faces. John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, which featured former Yardbird Eric Clapton for one album, made some of the best British Blues of the period. Eventually, the regional sound from the American south traveled around the world, inspiring people of all nationalities and colors.
One such is Australian vocalist and guitarist Andy Collins, who has recently released his second album, Lake St. Serenade
. It is clear from this disc that Collins has a great love for the Blues, and a great desire to emulate his heroes. Unfortunately, Collins only comes close on a few tracks. "Bare Bellied Joe," for example, features the excellent slide guitar work of Kirk Lorange and the harmonica of Jim Conway on a traditional Australian tune re-worked in the Delta style. Collins’ arrangement is extremely effective, and makes this the stand-out track on the album. Collins’ solo tribute to Blind Willie McTell, the appropriately titled "Blind Willie," is also quite good, featuring Collins’ vocals and guitar skills to good effect. The rest of the album seems a little watered down. "Desire," a cautionary tale about infidelity (in the "Who’s Making Love" vein), suffers from canned horn arrangements and cheesy electric keyboards. Several other songs on the album undergo similar treatment. On these tracks, Collins makes like Boz Scaggs, belting out blue-eyed soul against an overproduced background. In addition, Collins is a little too cheeky for his own good on tunes like "Well There You Are" and "Some People."
On the other hand, Collins comes across with absolute confidence. He’s a fairly strong vocalist and a decent lyricist. The instrumental performances are quite good throughout the album, the stand-outs being Lorange and Conway on "Bare Bellied Joe." If some of the songs fall flat, it certainly isn’t for lack of trying.
The album comes with a bonus CD-ROM, which plays a music video for "Pascoe River," apparently the most popular track from Collins’ previous album, Barron Delta Blue
. It’s a pretty low rent production, which has Collins (badly) lip synching and making like an Aussie Jimmy Buffet. It’s good for a laugh, but you’d probably not want to watch it a second time.