Nobody Told Me
The Godfather of British Blues, John Mayall is now 85 years old, but you’d never guess it from his prolific output in recent years since he signed with co-producer Eric Corne’s label, Forty Below Records, in 2013. Mayall’s long overdue induction into the Blues Hall of Fame was in 2015. Maybe the Grammys will see fit to honor him in some way. Time is ticking and many fellow musicians are aware of that. It may be why so many standouts join Mayall on his latest offering, Nobody Told Me. Or, it might be that it’s simply an honor to play with a living legend in this guitar summit. Mayall shows no signs of vocal deterioration, His voice is as strong as ever.
Aboard are the core trio Mayall has recently played and toured with – Jay Davenport (drums) and Greg Rzab (bass) while John sticks to keyboards and harmonica. The guest guitarists are favorites of Mayall’s, listed by track on the inside jacket, including Todd Rundgren, Little Steven Van Zandt of The E Street Band and his own Disciples of Soul band, Alex Lifeson from Rush, Joe Bonamassa (2 tracks), Larry McCray (2 tracks) and Carolyn Wonderland (3 tracks).Wonderland will be joining the band on tour. Also, Billy Watts (Lucinda Williams) joins on rhythm guitar as well as does Mayall’s regular horn section, moonlighting from their day job in The Late Show with Conan O’Brien’s house band.
They kick off with Magic Sam’s “What Have I Done Wrong” with Bonamassa on the searing lead, followed by Albert Collins’ “The Moon Is Full,” taken at a faster tempo than the original as Larry McCray assumes the spotlight. The mid-tempo “Evil and Here to Stay” is from the late, iconic blind Canadian guitarist Jeff Healy and features Alex Lifeson on the lead while Mayall blows his blues harp and solos on electric piano.
Little Milton’s “That’s What Love Will Make You Do” has Todd Rundgren on the axe, as the horn section blares away. As you know, Rundgren is not usually associated with the blues, but his solo is as fiery as any here. Wonderland takes her first turn on the Bonamassa/Hambridge “Distant Lonesome Train.” Wonderland wields a piercing slide while Mayall plays both organ and electric piano. Bonamassa returns for the burning Memphis-styled, rouser “Delta Hurricane,” punctuated also by horns and Mayall’s organ. McCray returns in an Albert King style, later turning to the wah-wah effects, for the late Irish guitarist Gary Moore’s “The Hurt Inside,” as the horns offer strong ensemble support.
The final section of the disc features three Mayall originals – the politically-charged “It’s So Tough” with Little Steven as Rzab walks a mean bass line, the piano-driven “I Like It Like You Do” with Wonderland, and the epic slow burning title track, again with Wonderland, as Mayall discourses on mortality. Ironically, a recent unexpected health scare occurred shortly after recording the album. He’s thankfully been given a clean bill of health and will return to his vigorous touring schedule in support of this release.
Given the star power aboard, this recording is highly anticipated and may bring Mayall some long overdue notice. He says, “This project has been a true labor of love for me and I can’t wait for people to hear the fireworks that took place.” There aren’t many who have contributed as much as he has, let alone are still out there, performing vitally as an octogenarian.
- Jim Hynes