Review: Dion – ‘Blues With Friends’

Bucking the trend of stereotypical blues collections, ‘Blues With Friends’ is not an album full of blues standards re-imagined by an all-star line-up. Instead, it is 14 original compositions played by an all-star line-up. The common denominator being the mononymous, bonafide rock ‘n’ roll legend known simply as Dion.

Dion Francis DiMucci (celebrating his 81st birthday on July 18th) has the makings of one hell of a WhatsApp group going on with this album. The album’s guests include (take a deep breath)… Jeff Beck, Billy Gibbons, Joe Bonamassa, Brian Setzer, Sonny Landreth, Samantha Fish, John Hammond Jr., Joe Louis Walker, Rory Block, Jimmy and Jerry Vivino, vintage guitar guru Joe Menza, Stevie Van Zandt, Patti Scialfa, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison and Paul Simon.

‘Blues With Friends’ is released through Joe Bonamassa’s new label; Keeping The Blues Alive Records, and it’s Joe that helps open the album with the soft shuffle of ‘Blues Comin’ On’. Dion’s warm vocals take front and centre as Bonamassa relishes taking on the role of the sidekick, until the track explodes into life with a fiery JB solo. ‘Kickin’ Child’ has a cool, almost Cubano feel to it, and features a killer guitar tone from Joe Menza. The original cool cat himself, Brian Setzer, brings his unmistakable twang to ‘Uptown Number 7’, before handing over the reigns to guitarist’s guitarist Jeff Beck for the waltz-like pacing on the soft blues lament of ‘Can’t Start Over Again’. Simply put, between them, Dion and Beck have produced something truly beautiful.

‘My Baby Loves To Boogie’ is a fantastic blues shuffle, complete with shimmering guitar solo, and the fantastic John Hammond Jr. on harmonica. Try to resist tapping your feet – nope, not possible. Joe Louis Walker pops up with a few gorgeous solos on ‘I Got Nothin’’ as Dion trades vocals with Van Morrisson. ‘Stumbling Blues’, with Jimmy Vivino on guitar and Jerry Vivino on saxophone, sounds like it was born at the same time as the blues itself, as does the magical ‘Bam Bang Boom’, which happens to feature the Reverend Billy Gibbons. World-renowned slide player Sonny Landreth appears on the horns-filled ‘I Got The Cure’, which gives way to ‘Song For Sam Cooke (Here in America)’, a deeply personal (and sadly, very timely) tale of Dion’s friendship with the late, great Sam Cooke. The song would still be special if it was only Dion himself, but Paul Simon adds some unforgettable vocal harmonies on a poignant tale.

‘What If I Told You’ features one of the fastest rising stars on the current blues scene, Samantha Fish, who delivers a performance so powerful that it had Dion waxing lyrical… “If I put out the same amount of energy and emotion that Samantha Fish put into this song, I wouldn’t be able to walk for three weeks. EPIC!!!”. Slide guitar aficionados will drool over the slow-burning ‘Told You Once In August’, which features both John Hammond and Rory Block… and then the E-Street connection kicks in. The walking encyclopedia of music, known as Stevie Van Zandt, sizzles on ‘Way Down (I Won’t Cry No More)’, and proves yet again that before he was a Soprano, he was, and still is, a fine guitar slinger. Closing out the album is ‘Hymn To Him’, originally recorded on Dion’s gospel album ‘Velvet & Steel’. The remake features Patti Scialfa on ethereal vocals, and her husband appears on guitar. Some guy… Springsteen, or something like that?

One of those albums that makes you want to strap so many current musicians to a chair, put the album on loop, and hold them hostage until they realise what it means to produce music with heart and soul.

‘Blues With Friends’ is available worldwide at:

Stream the album now:

Review – Dave

Photo Credit: © David Godlis

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