Dave Hole
Ticket to Chicago
Alligator 4847
Ticket to Chicago answers two burning question: Can Chicago blues really be played convincingly by some mate from Australia? And can it be done by playing with a slide held over the top of the neck? Dave Hole overcomes, no, runs right over both these hurdles in fine style, leaping through 14 cuts with a combination of wild abandon and surgical precision.

Hole made a pilgrimage to the Windy City to play and record with some of the city's supporting cast of musicians -- Ray "Killer" Allison, Tony Z., Johnny B. Gayden, Billy Branch and Gene Barge -- with readily apparent results. Having a seasoned back-up band obviously lit a fire under Hole, who rises to the occasion with soul, deep singing and incendiary fret work.

Almost every style of contemporary blues is represented here, from jump/swing to low-down-and-dirty to minimalist reflection. Out of Here opens with Hole's guitar slippin' and slidin' furiously. "You're Too Young" shuffles and swaggers in the best road-house style. "My Bird Won't Sing" offers understated and eloquent slow burn, while "Empty Train," featuring only acoustic guitar and deft harp work by Billy Branch, perfectly evokes the images conjured up by the title.

Hole can play it both ways: His slide work dive bombs with fat tone and vibrato, played with string-melting intensity on the rockin' tunes, and he can play with remarkable restraint without sacrificing feeling or intensity on the quiet songs. His speed and dexterity will leave you scratching your head and wondering how he can pull it all off, considering his unorthodox approach. Yes, Aussies do get the blues, and in this case, at least, can throw it back at us Yanks with style, fire and grace.

-- Jon Martinez


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Boulder, CO, USA.