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Living Blues

Living Blues

LIVING BLUES May/June 1998
  
This is a warm, charming, engaging album. With his laid-back vocals and strong slide guitar, Roy Book Binder sometimes evokes J.J. Cale, or Dire Straits' early, acoustic songs. But Book Binder's inspirations go way back. Having worked closely in the '60s with Piedmont masters Rev. Gary Davis and Pink Anderson, and having toured constantly for decades, Book Binder is a seasoned, mature blues artist with a sound of his own. He is a genuine example of the traveling-bluesman tradition that began in the '20 s, was revived in the '60s, and continues today.

Harmonica player David "Rock Bottom" York, upright bassist J.P. Cole, and percussionist Glen Evans- individually, two at a time, or sometimes all three- accompany~ Book Binder on some tracks. But always, Book Binder's voice and guitar are front and center; the accompanists are all exceptionally and beautifully spare in their contributions. In his cover songs, Book Binder does not necessarily go for the obscure or simple. A surefooted guitarist but not flashy, he is not afraid to tackle Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake, and Davis. He interprets their pieces his way, neither copying nor rearranging them. The album also includes several original blues (dedicated to various women in Book Binder's life), a guitarist instrumental, a spiritual, a rockabilly number, a snatch of the pre-blues Married Man's a Fool, and even a non-blues tune by an obscure contemporary songwriter, Jason Wilber's Ballad of Amazing Grace and Side Show Dan ("Never thought I'd record a song written by someone under 30," Book Binder admits in his liner notes).

It all fits together and becomes Book Binder's own. Blind Lemon sums up the album's spirit best. On that track, Book Binder combines lyrics and guitar licks from various Jefferson songs into one lovely tribute to the great bluesman, sung in the third person. The song, like the album, radiates a loving, humble approach to the country blues tradition.
  
- Steve Cheseborough (Living Blues)