Album review: QUINN SULLIVAN – Midnight Highway

QUINN SULLIVAN – Midnight Highway

Provogue [Release date 24.03.17]

Best known as Buddy Guy’s protégé, 17 year old Quinn Sullivan’s third album ‘Midnight Highway’ takes a major step up in carving out his own niche in the crossover blues rock-world

He’s got the chops, he’s honed his songwriting skills alongside drummer/producer Tom Hambridge and he’s improved his singing.

He’s also got a broad musical perspective – as evidenced by the choice of George Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ – which means nothing on here sounds too contrived or formulaic, but rather a genuine part of the young guitarists musical evolution.

The result is an edgy MOR roots-rock album full of stylistic diversity, that opens with the blues – an introductory processed voice gives way to a big blues-rock dynamic and layered sounds, before returning to base – then steers towards contemporary Nashville pop on ‘Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming’ and nudges the south on the soulful balledic title track.

He toughens things up on the sledgehammer ‘Crazy Into You’ – complete with a big hook – and demonstrates a deft touch on the engaging, acoustic ‘Eyes For You’. He also gets funky on the keyboard motif of ‘Lifting Off’, before it is transformed into contemporary electro pop, right down to his falsetto and a hurriedly phrased hook.

It’s a great example of the way the album slips imperceptibly from its blues roots to contemporary pop in the blink of an eye. ‘She Gets Me’ is carried by another strong radio friendly hook, suggesting he will soon be knocking on the door of  mainstream radio, though it is interwoven with enough sinuous guitar lines to remind us of his musical roots.

‘Going’ is a heartfelt piece consistent with a 17  year old’s outlook and contains arguably his most emotive lyrics on the arresting line: “How does someone lose their best friend and just walk away.”

‘Graveyard Stone’ is funkier, looser and is peppered with wah-wah break, on a track that sounds more of a band effort and he quietly evokes Jerry Garcia on ‘Big Sky’.

There’s still time for a confident expressive vocal on a cover of George Harrison ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and he finishes with a loose limbed jam ‘Buffalo Nickel’, which has echoes of the Allmans’, but is cleverly shaped by his own balance of natural exuberance and intricate restraint.

As with the album as a whole, it makes for a potent combination of contemporary roots-rock with a bluesy undertow.  Buddy Guy will surely afford himself a quiet knowing smile. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00

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