Artist: John Mayall
Album: Talk About That
Label: Forty Below Records
Release Date: 01/27/2017
For some, age doesn’t mean a damn thing but knowhow. John Mayall defines one of those fortunate few. Ostensibly, he’s led a great life. At 83, he looks and acts like a man 20 years his junior, and by the sounds of this album, he still has chops as massive as the Flintstones’ butcher. One of the first Brits to engage in American blues music, Mayall’s made quite a few albums over the last 50 years. Talk About That ranks with the best. Some may talk about that statement all day, but in the end, it’s true. Everything that defines a great album is here. Mayall wrote some songs that matter, and interspersed three smart covers. His quartet, aided by a trio of brass as needed, smokes every one with remarkable potency.
Starting with the upbeat, funky energy of the title song, they drive through a set that touches on various aspects of life—some good, and some not so good. Mayall sings to this day with unique shades in his voice, so in the grinding “It’s Hard Going Up,” his conviction not only rings true, but as very good rockin’ entertainment too. Both qualities make this record. Although he’s not calling this aggregation the Bluesbreakers, his band here does sport another in a long line of fantastic guitarists like Clapton, the Stones’ Mick Taylor and Coco Montoya, that he’s helped thrust upon the world. Listen closely to, and keep an eye on Rocky Athas. Talk marks his final Mayall album, and by virtue of his performances, he’ll be a name in the bigger game.
But as hardy and melodious as Athas is, Joe Walsh stopped by and added his particular blues zest to both “The Devil Must Be Laughing” and “Cards on the Table,” apparently checking an item off a lifelong bucket list. The former, a fantastic, very heavy blues, succinctly addresses the craziness of the world from the standpoints of our “Children taught in new ways that could make all mothers cry” to “Fanatics killing innocents all around.” For sweet musical relief then, the lickety-split take on Jimmy Rogers’ “Goin’ Away Baby” has Mayall tooting away on harp like the master he is. Bottom line? Make room for another trophy, Mr. Mayall.