Randy Bachman has thrown out the musical playbook and reinvented himself with his latest release Heavy Blues. Under the guidance and direction of producer Kevin Shirley, Bachman stripped down songs he had had originally written in favor of simpler, more organic versions. With bandmates Anna Ruddick on bass and drummer Dale Anne Brendon, Bachman has created 11 tracks that are instantly memorable.
Seven of the songs have a unique feature: Guest guitar solos from some of Bachman’s famous friends. Bad Child has a Manic Depression-inspired riff, and a guest solo from Joe Bonamassa. The two guitarists have very unique styles of playing, and it’s interesting to be able to hear from the first note when Bonamassa kicks in.
Speaking of unique playing styles, Oh My Lord is a really cool Southern gospel-style song with a unique twist on the usual “let the good times roll.” Guest soloist Robert Randolph, whom Bachman calls “the Jimi Hendrix of pedal steel” burns his way through the tune with numerous fills and an extended, inspired solo.
A poignant moment is the song Confessin’ To The Devil, which has the late Jeff Healey speaking from the beyond with his solo. Years earlier, Bachman and fellow Canadian Healey did some recording together, and for this song Bachman took a guitar solo from that work and wrote this song around it.
Bachman considers the title track his favorite, and listening to Heavy Blues it’s hard to disagree with that assessment. A crushing, heavy blues/rock riff propels the song while Bachman sings “heavy blues are gonna fall on you” and the lead break has a contribution from Peter Frampton. However, this is different from Bonamassa’s earlier contribution in that Frampton chose not to simply follow Bachman or do a call and response, but weaves his playing in and around Bachman’s notes. It’s not disrespectful at all; the counterplay creates dramatic tension and makes the lead guitar break a standout on the album.
To paraphrase a line from the song, spread the news! Here come the heavy blues…