The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome Review

Critics joke that the Rolling Stones may outlive us all, and if their new album Blue and Lonesome is any indication of their stamina, I’d say it’s possible. The British boys who brought the blues to America’s attention in the 1960s returned on December 2 with their first album in 11 years, a 12-track set of blues covers paying tribute to songwriters and performers like Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed and more. Recorded a year ago over three days in London during sessions for a different (and as yet unfinished) Stones album, Blue and Lonesome is pure, energetic and hard working: it’s a near perfect blues album.

Mick Jagger’s vocals on album opener “Just Your Fool” beg the question: is he really 73 years young? Jagger’s voice doesn’t sound far from the 22-year-old vocals on 1965’s original “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Blue and Lonesome has energy similar to that of early Stones records, though the energy is more contained now than it was in the ‘60s. While songs like “Satisfaction” and “Get Off My Cloud” brimmed with Jagger’s shouts and Keith Richards’ slick guitar work, Blue and Lonesome abides by the 12-bar blues format on most songs, where every track has a set tempo and every note has a rightful place. At least, that’s how the album starts. The best moments are when the Stones put their own spin on the blues classics, like Charlie Watts’ forceful drumming on seemingly simple beats like that in “Just Your Fool” or Jagger’s ubiquitous harmonica playing throughout the record.

“Just Your Fool” starts with a classic 12-bar tempo: a reminder that this album is a return to the music that inspired the band during its early days. The second track, “Commit a Crime,” is one of the album’s strongest standouts. Most famously recorded by Howlin’ Wolf, the Stones’ version has a rolling tempo like Wolf’s – the spin here is with the guitar solo two minutes in, which Jagger replaces with his own harmonica solo. “Blue and Lonesome” and “I Gotta Go” have similarly impressive harmonica moments, while “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” and “Little Rain” speak to the bandmates’ balladeer sides. Accompanying Jagger, Richards, Watts and Ronnie Wood on this album are the Stones’ regular touring musicians Darryl Jones (bass), Chuck Leavell (keys) and Matt Clifford (keys). As Jones works with Watts to keep the rhythms steady, Leavell and Clifford contribute piano riffs that are alternately haunting (“All of Your Love”) and jazzy (“Everybody Knows About My Good Thing”). Blue and Lonesome even features appearances by Eric Clapton on “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby.” Though the latter retains the main guitar solo heard in versions by Otis Rush and Led Zeppelin, the Stones’ “I Can’t Quit You Baby” encourages a more inclusive sound as each instrument is given space and volume from the start.

When the Rolling Stones invited Howlin’ Wolf to join them on the American television show Shindig! in 1965, American listeners were beginning to embrace a genre that had always lived on the outskirts of popular music. The Stones’ success is tied to their embrace of and appreciation for their musical roots. By bringing attention back to blues classics 51 years later, the Stones again pay tribute through Blue and Lonesome to the music that made rock ’n roll possible – and prove that they play it better than most.

The Review: 9.5/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Just Your Fool
– Commit a Crime
– Blue and Lonesome
– I Can’t Quit You Baby

The Big Hit

– Commit a Crime

Review by Meghan Roos

Buy the album: Amazon | Amazon UK

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