Guest Author - Sue Sutherland-Wood
‘Big Dave McLean’ is not a household name – even in his native Canada – but he's been on the touring circuit for literally years and garnered a heft of awards and nominations en route – as well as a legion of fans who know him for his live performances. Even though McLean's mainstream appeal is not yet firmly established Acoustic Blues - Got ‘em from the Bottom is a solid blues record and may well change all that.
Dave McLean’s kind of blues is definitely based firmly in the Delta – even a cursory listen will leave you with no doubts about where his musical roots lie. Big Dave cites Muddy Waters as his mentor and main influence and he actually toured with him years ago and they were lifelong friends. McLean plays a mean guitar with understated skill and he’s no slouch with the harp either. You can hear that Muddy swankiness all over this record but I’d have to say it’s definitely not contrived or wannabe and McLean makes the sound his very own. Many of the tracks too are original McLean compositions.
There are a staggering 19 tracks on Acoustic Blues - Got ‘em from the Bottom making this album well worth the price of admission! And though it is predominantly an acoustic blues album there is still a lot of variance in the songs, which range from original works to Muddy Waters’ covers and other artists as well.
Why Do Girls Do That is a catchy, jaunty tune penned by McLean himself and saturated with bleating harmonica and his trademark rasp. Someone pass the crawdads at once …
Up on Waverley is a classic blues song, chronicling a story of things gone bad (of course) and showcases McLean’s gritty, tortured vocals with a slinky little shuffle in the background. Love this one. He’s really quite good at convincing the listener that this very thing must have happened to him personally in the last twenty four hours – and it’s still raw when he serves up the song.
Louisiana Blues/Forty Four (Medley) is a Muddy Waters cover but with a completely different edge on the vocals and a much looser arrangement that really works. (Dave still keeps the lyric as “Looz-anna” and gets away with it nicely).
Comin’ Home to You is a plaintive, late at night kind of song which features some excellent trembling guitar work and some earnest phrasing from a growly McLean.
Oh Baby …Yah is the swinging kind of shuffle-enhanced tune you’d expect (or at least hope) to hear at a roadhouse you’d just stumbled across and suddenly the night is perfect. McLean’s sincerity is full-on till the end when he declares himself “weak and numb.” Excellent.
Not everyone likes this type of (very authentic) blues. It’s definitely scrappy and rough around the edges, a bit like Dave himself I’m sure. In a way that's the point.But the admirable thing about this kind of record is that it seeks to be preservationist – to keep the whole blues machine going. Dave has dedicated his whole career to that ideal and hopefully this record will get the recognition he so richly deserves.
Buy Acoustic Blues now at Amazon.com!