John Mayall ‘A Special Life’ (Forty Below) 4/5

john-mayallOctogenarian John Mayall is enjoying a new lease of life late on in his career and this latest album showcases his profound knowledge of the blues tradition and beyond, while laying down some heavy blues-rock grooves. This writer prefers the more subtle side to the Mayall repertoire and the soulful, catchy melody of ‘Heartache’ is a joy to behold with keyboard and bass in unison on this terrific number. On the minor blues number ‘Floodin’ in California’ Mayall reveals a more delicate side to his music and excels on vocals. His respect for the blues tradition is beyond dispute and on the rustic ‘Just a memory’, he takes the ensemble sound down to the bare minimum to thrilling effect while there is a faithful interpretation of Jimmy McCracklin’s ‘I’ve just got to know’. The mid-paced groove of ‘Why did you go last night’ is noteworthy for the use of some subtle electric piano while Mayall himself leads on harmonica on the title track. Some of the uptempo numbers were a tad too much in the blues-rock bag for this writer, but that is exactly what his fans love him for and ‘Like a fool’ is probably the pick of these. John Mayall is currently undertaking an extensive UK tour that began on 17 October and continues on into late November, taking in Manchester at the Bridgewater Hall on 28 October and a double bill at Ronnie Scott’s in London on 25 and 26 November respectively. Blues fans are in for a treat.

Tim Stenhouse