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Music Review: LA Blues Alliance – What A Life

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Newcomers LA Blues Alliance may not be a familiar name on the blues scene, yet the players who make up this nine-piece outfit are among the most talented and well-respected names in the business. With What A Life renowned composer and producer Mike Post has assembled an all star cast of remarkable players and created one of the most exhilarating blues CDs of recent times in the process.

The supergroup line-up consists of legendary organist Mike Finnigan (who has worked with musicians from Hendrix, to Rod Stewart and Taj Mahal), as well as modern blues giant Keb ‘Mo, slide virtuoso Sonny Landreth, and more. Most of the band’s musicians sing lead and background vocals in addition to showcasing their exceptional abilities on their instruments.

Each musician brought two songs of their choice into the studio, resulting in an eclectic yet deftly arranged mix of original tunes and covers. The dizzying combination of styles could be overwhelming if it weren’t for Post’s cohesive production and the quality of the musical performances, but as it is the track list flows seamlessly and effortlessly retains the listener’s attention for the record’s entire duration.

The CD kicks off with the raucous title tune, penned by Finnigan, with all present slipping comfortably into a Chicago blues groove with superb vocal performances. This is followed by a more laid back outing as Keb Mo’ delivers his atmospheric interpretation of Joe Turner’s "TV Mama", laced with steamy vocals and delicious whirling B3 organ. This tune sees a noteworthy performance from Sonny Landreth on slide guitar as he weaves subtle lines in and out of Keb Mo’s vocal one minute, and cuts through the organ with distorted roars the next, adding depth and rich melodic colours at every step.

Other highlights include Landreth’s cover of Skip James’ "Illinois Blues" with haunting mantra-like vocals, Son House’s "Death Letter" with Finnigan delivering a wonderfully gravelly vocal performance, and a brilliant rendition of "Maybe Your Baby" featuring Amy Keys on lead vocals.

Though they seem like a good idea, the unfortunate problem with most all-star groups is a clashing of musical egos at the expense of the music. Thankfully that is far from the case here, and everyone involved manages to deliver a mouth-watering performance, whilst still leaving their fellow players with plenty of room to bring their own qualities to the party.

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