Robert Lucas
Completely Blue
Audioquest Music 1045
This is a much different Robert Lucas than the acoustic Delta blues stylist of years past. Completely Blue finds him immersed in the Rod Piazza/James Harman/William Clarke school of electric, harmonica-driven jump blues (listen to "Dollars & Sense" for a good example). Lucas is supported by guitarist Alex Schultz, best known for his work with Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers. Lucas blends this West Coast aesthetic with a generous dose of languid Louisiana grooves that recall Slim Harpo or perhaps Lazy Lester.

Completely Blue merits a good news/bad news discussion, and since the overall verdict is good, let's get the bad news out of the way first: Lucas sometimes sounds like he's trying to sound like someone else. The Lucas-penned "Party Girl," for example, is a clear knock-off of Sonny Boy Williamson II, from the harp-through-PA-mike solo to the quick, wavering vocal vibrato. (The song is also strikingly similar in parts to a "Party Girl" covered by Harman on the recently reissued Extra Napkins.) "Pain in Our Cities" is, stylistically and structurally, a copy of Muddy Waters' "Standin' 'Round Cryin'," among others.

Forgive those indiscretions, though, and Completely Blue is an enjoyable, personal dose of blues featuring a variety of grooves and dynamic energy levels. "I Miss Being High" sounds like a true story, convincingly told over a swampy beat, tremoloed guitar and complementary percussion. "Fifty Pounds of Bone" is a hilarious declaration of the joys of being a big, hungry man ("Fifty pounds of bone, wrapped up in 200 pounds of ham!"). The title track is a six-minute, around-the-horn instrumental that begins with Lucas working out convincingly on chromatic harmonica and finishes with plenty of room for piano man Fred Kaplan, who's worked with Kim Wilson, James Harman and the Hollywood Fats Band, to name a few.

Lucas breaks out the acoustic slide, nicely accompanied by Kaplan, on "I'm Gonna Whisper." He also plays acoustic slide on an acoustic version of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile (A Slight Return)," which closes the CD. Whether that one works for you is a matter of taste, but it's at least an original take on a guitar classic.

-- Bryan Powell

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Boulder, CO, USA.