The Rolling Stones: Blue & Lonesome

Score: 7/10 – Still moss-free.
The slightest mention of the septuagenarian Stones breaking an 11-year studio silence with an all-new collection of blues covers has been greeted by outright snoring in some quarters, but the audio reality is a lot racier. Stripped back to what they know best, the album is a no-frills, irony-free blast of fresh air that has been described as “five decades in the making and just three days to record”.
Blue & Lonesome is their most consistently excellent album in 36 years, or more, presenting the beyond-iconic group as most serious fans have wanted to hear them all along – playing the rootsy music that initially inspired them – raw loose and alive. The pressure on the world’s greatest rock’n’roll band to justify that status on record has been crushing, creatively. So it was proving one Friday last December, while Mick, Keef, Charlie and Ronnie were struggling with a new self-composition at Mark Knopfler’s studio in Chiswick. Hitting a wall, they spontaneously cracked into “Blue & Lonesome”, an obscure number by Muddy Waters’ harmonica player Little Walter. It felt good, so Jagger dug deep into his collection to pick out further recherché tunes from 1950s Chicago, and the whole album was wrapped up by Tuesday lunchtime.
All thoughts of age, celebrity and stadium itineraries melt away as the Stones work their particular alchemy with vigour, mastery and jeu d’esprit. In an accompanying communiqué, Richards talks of “the sheer non-stop throttling hypnotism” of blues, and stand outs “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” and “All Your Love” are testament to that, the latter’s two-chord guitar figure grinding on and on and on. Jagger too, sounds suitably invigorated, blasting his harp like Little Walter’s natural heir. Even Richards has been bigging up his performances. Hey, maybe this London combo have a future after all.
Dan Ashcroft
Like this? Try these:

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‘Old Slow Hand’ teams up with his blues hero.

Gary Moore
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Grizzled bluesman pays homage to the iconic guitarist Peter Green.

Joe Bonamassa
Dustbowl
Atmospheric modern blues from New York soloist.

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