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Music Review: Eric Lindell – Gulf Coast Highway

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Once an artist has reached a certain point we’re willing to settle for a recognizable sound. Younger artists, however, are expected to grow, and Eric Lindell, still young by blues standards, continues his restless exploration of blues, soul, and roadhouse R&B with increasingly assured results on Gulf Coast Highway, his third outing for Alligator Records.

Lindell’s obviously been influenced by Delbert McClinton; there’s an uncanny vocal resemblance at times, that same gritty blue-eyed soul, and like McClinton, Lindell favors a raucous, rollicking sound with punchy horns and occasional harmonica. There’s even a McClinton cover here, the prototypical “Here Come The Blues Again,” though guitarist Lindell turns harp duties over to the more-than-capable Sean Carey.

Lindell’s no copycat, though, and he wrote all but two of the disc’s remaining dozen tunes. Some take familiar hooks but develop different rhythms, but for the most part they’re well-constructed and sturdy exercises in greasy, horn-fueled R&B, with a few tender moments (the blue-eyed soul of “Love and Compassion” and the touching “Lullaby For Mercy Ann”) for variety. Additional covers include “I Can Get Off On You” (originally a duet between Willie and Waylon, here a bouncy Tex-Mex shuffle), and a rousing version of Buck Owens’ “Crying Time Again,” here given the same kind of treatment (and reminiscent of) McClinton’s re-working of “You Are My Sunshine.”

Lindell’s compositions this time out show increasing confidence and more musical muscle. Tenor sax man Jimmy Carpenter helps with horn arrangements throughout, but Lindell, who produced the disc himself, proves himself a mature artist with a distinctive voice, one more interested in a well-crafted song than instrumental indulgence. This is a fine and fully realized outing, but there remains a sense that there’s yet more growth to come from Mr. Lindell. He’s a talent to enjoy and to watch!

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