Album Review: IAN SIEGAL – Man & Guitar

Ian Siegal - Man & Guitar

Nugene Records [out now]

Bluesman Ian Siegal is building a stout reputation. Emerging into the conscience of mainstream blues around 03-04 with some high profile tours, he has gone on to garner a clutch of blues Hall of Fame awards for his eclectic music and performances.

Siegal’s output embraces blues, folk, rock, roots and country. He seems just as comfortable fronting a band – last year’s album ‘Candy Store Kid’ saw him front the Mississippi Mudbloods, a revolving crew of blues luminaries – or taking the solo, acoustic route.

‘Man & Guitar’ is of the latter ilk. More than that, it’s live. Siegal’s first dabble in this sphere.

It’s really, really live though. This is an intimate gig recorded at the Albert Hall’s Bluesfest last November in one of the many side rooms off the main hall. So intimate that Siegal could be sat in my living room chewing the fat about the greatness of Charlie Patton and the inspiration of Big George Ross Watt.

Warts and all would be an unfair description. This is simply the show from start to finish. Every pick-nuance, fret-shift and foot-tap is crystal clear and vibrant. Siegal is a born entertainer and the recording retains the ad-libs, the self-admonishments and more importantly the warmth and humour.

The journey on which he takes the crowd during the ‘Preachin’ Blues’ medley amply demonstrates how much this is Siegal’s natural environment. That delicious steel guitar helps too.

Siegal mixes his own material with some traditional standards. ‘Mortal Coil Shuffle’ already pretty stripped down on ‘Swagger’ is laid completely bare and vulnerable here; whereas ‘I Am The Train’ from ‘Candy Store Kid’ hangs on to its insistent drive and rumble.

The voice is wonderful. Whiskey-soaked, gravelly and emotion-wracked; but characterful, precise and articulate too. Check out the stunning climactic verse in Taj Mahal’s ‘T’Ain’t Nobody’s Business’ that brings such a strong reaction from the crowd. ‘Gallo del Cielo’ spins a beautifully delivered, Spanish-influenced, ballad of love, loss and gambling.

Mostly this is a tender, plaintive, story-telling performance. Sometimes tortured, sometimes impassioned, always compelling. Another important step along the stony road for Mr Siegal.  ****

Review by Dave Atkinson


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