Having dedicated the bulk of his career to a seemingly endless string of tours spread across several bands—including his own—Alastair Greene has only recently sharpened his focus on solo endeavors. If 2018’s Live From The 805 exhibits Greene at his rawest, and its predecessor, Dream Train, paints him with a thin coat of studio gloss, The New World Blues finds itself somewhere in between. Composed of mostly live, in-studio takes, the album avoids any non-essential tinkering, leaving a stripped-down and often intimate set.
With a title like The New World Blues, it is tempting to assume that the genesis of Greene’s latest effort lies in current societal upheaval. While a couple of its tracks do broach this subject, the album’s creation owes more to the burgeoning relationship between Greene and fellow guitarist Tab Benoit, whose drumming and harmonies anchor the accompaniment. Along with bassist Corey Duplechin, Benoit steers the record into a relaxed, Southern Louisiana mood, complementing Greene’s strengths. A master of coaxing and creating rich vivid sounds from his instrument and amplifiers, the open and uncluttered setting of a basic power trio allows Green ample space to expand.
The leadoff single, “Living Today,” and the titular closer, “The New World Blues” cut a hard edge into the swampy thickness that pervades the album, but even these tracks exude a certain laid-back quality despite their pulsing rhythm and crunchy guitar overdrive. Greene’s basic rhythm cadence sets up a dynamic change into one of the set’s best choruses with a little harmony help from Benoit, and his precise instrumental licks and explorations shine not only for their crisp attack, but also for their restraint. Natural ringing guitar tones fill the soundscape in lieu of excessive notes. With a similar attitude, “The New World Blues” grinds into an overdriven slide guitar exposition furthering a lyrical message that is simultaneously bleak and hopeful. “Don’t let it get you down. It’s just the new world blues.”
Within these radio-ready bookends Greene treats listeners to his unique version of guitar-centric rock across a variety of subgenres. “Lies And Fear” dabbles around the edges of funk, and “When You Don’t Know What To Do” would fit on a Johnny Cash album with its rollicking rockabilly feel. On slower, pensive numbers like “Heroes,” Greene slips into contemplation and his guitar follows suit—its echoed passages add to the ephemeral mood. Another standout, “Bayou Mile,” fully realizes this introspective style with a simple but memorable guitar pattern and a little lyrical help from Benoit.
The three-song run of “No Longer Amused,” “Back At The Poor House,” and “Find Your Way Back Home” predominantly serves as a vehicle for Greene’s blues musings, which are excellent in their organic untouched state, unmuddled by needless post-production. Perhaps the best of the three, “Back At The Poor House,” references great Freddie King rave-ups of the past without sounding derivative.
The New World Blues digs deeper into Greene’s repertoire, which uncoincidentally digs deeper into the blues aspects of his style. With Benoit’s help, the taut trio rely on their music and their artistry to create a set that offers an exceptionally transparent group of tracks, devoid of the usual studio album accoutrements. Whereas his past solo efforts have focused more on stand-alone songs, The New World Blues is best consumed as a whole. And while this might not be the best starting point for listeners unfamiliar with Alastair Greene, longtime acolytes will find this album to be further proof of his greatness.
The Review: 8.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Living Today
– Bayou Mile
– Back at The Poor House
– The New World Blues
The Big Hit
– The New World Blues