Amazingly it is already ten years since Aynsley Lister released his first self-titled debut album. Now this year sees his latest, Equilibrium, a record that promises to confirm his already widespread reputation as one of the world’s most exciting young bluesmen.
Equilibrium builds upon the impressive foundation of his 2007 album Upside Down and the earlier Pilgrimage with his best effort to date. Whilst his heart and soul remain immersed in the tradition of the blues he brings to it a modern slant, a freshness that leaves a cool breeze flowing through his music. His adds a classy, commercial optimism yet he never forgets to respectfully pay his dues to the blues.
It’s blues but it has been given a breath of fresh air, a modern twist, and an enthusiastically contagious energy. These ingredients have, for some time, made Aynsley one of the acts to catch on the circuit. With Equilibrium he pulls it all together on a expertly constructed album that has both his voice and guitar reaching all their potential.
There is a commercial aspect to it, a radio friendly sensibility within a stylish collection of well written songs that show that Aynsley Lister has become everything that we hoped he would. One of the keys to the album’s impact is its undeniable smoothness and seemingly effortless inventiveness.
For Equilibrium he is joined by Robbie McIntosh (John Mayer) whose additional guitars alongside those of Simon Johnson gives the album an additional dimension. Having said that Aynsley Lister’s own guitar playing is, of course, superb and driving riffs flow throughout.
There is something Joe Bonamassa in his work. That excitement, understanding, and talent are all natural gifts. He makes it sound effortless as though he was born to play it. This is of course a vital blues ingredient.
There are snatches of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s influence and more than the odd nod towards Eric Clapton. Brief splashes crossing Robin Trower with Cream blaze in on “Time’s Up” whilst the influence of the mellow side of Jimi Hendrix shine though gently on the wonderful “What’s It All About”. That said, there is enough individual ability here to make elevate Aynsley up onto his own platform.
He has come of age and developed his blend of blues, blues rock, and pop based rock, and delivers it all with his impressively soulful voice. Despite the inclusion of a track called “Running On Empty”, not a reworking of the Jackson Browne song, there is only one cover in the twelve song set. For that he takes apart Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and gives it an acoustic run through that works one every level.
If you were to play the opening track “Soul” and not get any further most of the above possibly wouldn’t ring true. It introduces the album in an expertly written radio friendly way with chiming guitar and an infectious hook. Anyone in charge of a radio slot needs to check this one out, it’s that good.
“Forever” soothes a path for another switch this time to acoustic blues with the only cover “Crazy”.The massive riff of “Big Sleep” kicks aside its gentle acoustic introduction. “Running On Empty” shows just how far his songwriting skills have grown with another potential airwave pleaser.
This is again the case with the soothingly soulful “Superficial” and “Early Morning Dew”. Aynsley’s vocals are superb throughout and he injects a genuine emotion into the song that justifiably radiates a balanced self confidence and belief.
After this gentle passage, and as if to prove he can power out smouldering blues like the best and rest of them, he blasts back with “Running Out On Me” which includes another scorching guitar solo. “Sugar Low” and a nicely worked “Hurricane” draw this impressive album to a close.
Upside Down was a very good album and is well worth checking out but Equilibrium manages to take it that extra step. Since his arrival Aynsley has always been one to watch. Now he has shaken off that ‘potential’ tag and become a standout established performer in his own right.