Album review: DOUG MACLOUD – There’s A Time




Reference [Release date 13.05.13]

The blues must be in reasonably good shape if there’s room for a great album like this. Doug MacLeod has lived, breathed, played, sang and written the blues for longer than most of us have had a working life. He oozes the tradition in both his vocal phrasing – including spoken word verse – and his elegant guitar playing.  The songs come from the stuff of daily life, full of memories, reflections, colourful stories, relationship songs and occasionally total fiction, as on the humorous ‘My Inlaws Are Outlaws’, complete with a funny rap on the outro.

Were these his only qualities, he’d still stand head and shoulders above his contemporaries, but together with the subtle rhythm section of Jimi Bott on brushes and Denny Croy on sumptuous bass, he conjures up some special live in the studio magic, rooted in the experience of life on the road as a working musician.

Doug uses the liner notes to give us a chronological breakdown of all the guitars he uses, ranging from national steel to a 12 string, as he fingerpicks and slides his way through 13 tracks.  And while this may be of interest to completists, it’s essentially the experience in his finger tips and the folk tales that he imparts through poignant lyrics and the deftest touch on the strings that make this album special.

All of Doug’s inherent qualities are evident in the opening ‘Rosa Lee’, on a cool shuffle blues with a marvellous walking bass line and wry lyrics; ‘talking about Rosalee, I know you got to a pay but I get it for free’.

‘Black Night’ is the deepest of blues and the kind of relationship song he revisits on the poignant ‘A Ticket Out’. He effectively has a conversation between voice and guitar and occasionally extends a vowel for extra emphasis. In sharp contrast, The 12 string laden ‘The Up Song’ is a positive optimistic song, with a groove and soulful vocal.

He sometime turns his attention to the micro things in life, as on the spoken word intro of ‘The Entitled Few’, while ‘Run With The Devil’ is an altogether darker look at another failed relationship, and he’s not afraid to delve into a spot of self analysis as on ‘East Carolina Woman.’

‘There’s A Time’ is an album full of  changing moods, subtle textures and a variety of subject matter, including the humorous tales of cheap whisky on ‘St.Elmo’s Rooms and Pool’ and a street corner bible thumper on ‘Dubb’s Talking Religion Blues’.

Doug MacLeod manages to communicate more in a pregnant pause than most acoustic blues players manage in a whole album. His timbre is natural, his phrasing eloquent and he rarely wastes a lyric in 13 songs full of meaning and musical dynamics.

 He’s walking, talking blues man, whose music is a natural extension of the self. The fact he also happens to be a great guitarist, an achingly emotive singer and a poignant song writer makes him one of the primary blues practitioners of his era, with one of the best albums of the year.


Review by Pete Feenstra 

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