Saturday, 2 June 2018
Chris Rea - Dancing Down The Stony Road (2002)
Released September 2002
In many ways this was the forerunner of the monumental “Blue Guitars” project. This was the album which saw Chris Rea change direction from his radio-friendly, “easy listening” style which had dominated his output in the late 1980s and 1990s to a style which saw him mine the rich seam of his beloved blues.
This is a double album, and is maybe just a bit too sprawling (as double albums usually are) but there is some quality blues rock on here - “Heading For The City” with some trademark red hot slide guitar on it, “Mississippi 2”, “Easy Rider”, “Dancing The Blues Away”, the swamp blues of “Catfish Girl” (which would appear again on “Blue Guitars”), and the evocative, soulful “Stony Road”. “So Lonely” is a mournful slow blues, as indeed is the almost spiritual “Ride On”. “When The Good Lord Talked To Jesus” is another spiritual-influenced heartfelt, yearning blues. “Sun Is Rising” starts as a slow lament of a blues and ends up as an upbeat, gospel celebration, both musically and lyrically. You could easily imagine this being sung in church. Then there is the intoxicating rhythm of “Got To Be Moving On”. Check out the slide guitar on “Ain’t Going Down This Way” too.
Probably the best blues is to be found in the second half of the album’s twenty tracks. However, all of it is impressive.
Rea stated that this was very much a “Delta Blues” album as opposed to say a “Chicago Blues” one. Delta bluesmen sang of hardship, poverty, religious faith and a recognition of their own mortality, whereas their Chicago equivalents often sang of girls, drink, drugs and money. This was a blues that reached down deep into one’s mortal soul.
Rea’s voice is so suited to these tunes - rich, deep, expressive and sad. Of course, his guitar is up there with the best in the business and the musicians he employs are always of the highest standard. Just listen to “Qualified” as an example.
Rea also employs the trick of adding false crackling sounds to give it that blues “authenticity” on some of the tracks for the first time.
This album began a journey into the blues that was still present on his albums in 2017, through “Blue Guitars”, “Santo Spirito Blues” to “Road Songs For Lovers”. If it were not for the huge presence of “Blue Guitars”, this would be considered Rea’s blues masterpiece.