Though hailing from smalltown North Michigan, like last year’s The Coming Tide Luke Winslow-King’s fourth album ‘Everlasting Arms’ draws extensively on the musical roots his adopted home of New Orleans. Trading verses with personal and professional partner Esther Rose, the album opens with a rewriting of 1887 hymn Everlasting Arms, delivered with an easy-rolling warm Southern swing and an early sample of Winslow-King’s bottleneck slide prowess.
However, if that’s relaxed and laid back, the next cut, Swing That Thing is an itchy bluesy groove with a 50s punk edge, driven by resonator guitar. That same barrelhouse rock n roll urgency’s to be found on the sax blowing Cadillac Slim and you could hear Elvis or Jerry Lee doing both of them.
The mood changes again for Levee Man, a lazy stroll down the Mississippi banks in the summer of the late 20s with your sweetheart, accompanied by strolling New Orleans players on trumpet, trombone and clarinet. It’s at times like this that you can fully understand why he’s been likened to vintage Dr. John, Leon Redbone and Randy Newman, the latter comparison particularly pertinent to Graveyard Blues, a piano-led funeral march tempo gallows humour number about the narrator losing his blues by being hung.
Temporarily leaving New Orleans behind, he sets sail for the calypso of St Croix in the Virgin Islands for La Bega Carousel, a brassed-up cover of a popular Quelbe protest song from the early 1900s written to encourage a boycott of the titular carousel in protest at the workers’ low pay. The man clearly knows his musical history, an observation underlined by The Crystal Water Springs, a moody, slide guitar wailing blues with a lyrical reference to William Bell’s You Don’t Miss Your Water (‘Til The Well Runs Dry).
Esther takes her turn in the spotlight while her husband provides call and response for the fiddle backed country styled Wanton Way of Loving, Interlude I (As It Goes) affording Winslow-King a 90 second showcase of his guitar work, before those country tones seep into the melancholic, slow march ballad Last Night I Dreamed My Birthday with its sorrowful brass to complement the lyrics tale of loss while a scorching slide solo howls out the pain.
It’s not just the title of Domino Sugar that calls to mind the Stones, a similar sleazy guitar burping strut and chugging rhythm informs its lyrics of devoted love, proving one of the album’s few post-war few reference points. Interlude II provides a brief desolate guitar prelude to Home Blues, a return to the late night New Orleans and Delta dives of the 30s featuring resonator guitar, clarinet and brass band, part Dr. John, part Buddy Bolden. The album closes the shutters with Travelin’ Myself, a scratchy rock ‘n’ rolling slide blues that, along with everything else on this stylistically diverse but cohesive collection of Southern blues, makes you wonder why Jools Holland hasn’t been on the phone begging him to do Later. If his live shows are anything like his performance on disc, then the sooner he gets over here the better.
Review by: Mike Davies
Luke Winslow-King – Full Performance (Live on KEXP)
Out Now via Bloodshot Records. Order via Amazon