Album review: JOHN MAYALL & THE BLUES BREAKERS – Road Dogs


EAR Music [Released 20.03.20]

The first thing I wrote as I heard the title track “Road Dogs” coming through the speakers was “authentic”.

Then I had to chuckle. If ANY British man playing the blues is authentic! Mind you, along with Alexis Korner, John Mayall is the absolute guv’nor of British Blues. So “authentic” it is, if we put Chicago and the Mississippi Delta to one side.

I clearly recall as a youngster being captivated by the Woolworth’s Record bins in the mid 60’s. They were cheaper than other record outlets through the mfp (music for pleasure) label. Well, I also clearly remember several different John Mayall albums in these bins, and I’ve been aware of him ever since.

This might be a fine album, but here’s the problem. It was originally released in 2005, some forty years after his heyday – and now re-released in 2020, so the target market is going to be very niche.

The “Road Dogs” title sounds like it’s a live outing. But it’s a well played, well produced studio album – with the dual themes of life on the road and John’s childhood and musical heritage.

Two songs in, and he’s already namechecked Blind Lemon Jefferson, Muddy Waters and Little Walter, so that can’t be bad!

What the album really is…….it’s a legend backed up by first rate musicians, providing an A-Z of blues. You’ve got delta blues, harmonica blues, talking blues, boogie woogie, swamp blues, blues-based rock etc etc. The fiddle tracks are excellent! They stay just on this side of Country Music

You can hear even in these tracks what an influence John Mayall was to the entire UK music scene.

Apart from anything else the Bluesbreakers roster has included Peter Green, Jack Bruce, John McVie and Eric Clapton.

“Awestruck and Spellbound” is interesting. It begins with crossing the bridge into Memphis, and describing UK touring “from Glasgow to Tunbridge Wells”, but it also contains a neat couple of lines about his old employee -

“Playing the blues with a man named Green, he had us all under his spell. Singing ‘bout a Black Magic Woman and all I could say was Oh Well”.

Despite this UK orientation, Mayall has lived in Los Angeles since the late 60’s and is now 86 years young.

Review by Iain McGonigal

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