Music Maker 2020
Laying down the law of blues, Southern rock stalwart delivers the defining album of his entire career.
“This cold and lonesome feelin’ has got to go,” sang Harvey Dalton Arnold back in 1977, but it’s this sensation that seemed to have been fueling the veteran’s oeuvre ever since before he joined OUTLAWS. For decades down the line after they parted company, Harvey’s still mining the same rich vein, self-referencing his stint with the group as a personal credo and gradually turning up the heat. If Arnold’s solo debut “Outlaw” from 2016 was an acoustic effort, “Stories To Live Up To” sees him take a six-string charge of a full-band electric set-up, with bass duties delegated to Zev Katz to assure the leader’s instrumental freedom.
That’s what the vulnerable “Lone Outlaw” – most introspective piece whence the titular words come – is about: the liberty of choice which may change one’s life. Although there’s funky playfulness to opener “Stay Here With Me” where Harvey’s voice edges to the verge of despair to be chased away by his guitar’s tasty twang, Arnold’s rolling out nuanced balladry in “Poor Boy” and has “Gotta See Ya” spiced up with Rob Arthur’s piano. Occasionally citing his chosen genre’s classics, Harvey inhabits an individual headspace in the “Early Bird” whose roar and rumble are rapturous, while the catchy drama of “What’s On Your Mind” is equally driven by his multilayered licks and riffs and Charley Drayton’s sympathetic drums.
“Catfish Blues” might be steeped in trad idiom, yet the sweet chug applied to this epic here renders it rather original – a perfect reflection of Harvey’s creative method. A strong pretender for the “Blues Album of the Year” award, “Stories To Live Up To” is a dim, if crunchy, delight through and through.