Norman Beaker Band 2017
Fresh off his induction into the Blues Hall of Fame, veteran guitarist rolls further on down the road.
A stalwart of British blues scene for five decades, it’s only recently that Norman Beaker started to collect his accolades, although the growing recognition didn’t impinge on the axeman’s sense of self-importance, and this album is all about having fun rather than celebrating it. Which is why, perhaps, the artist’s latter-day trio had been expanded to a fuller band: because ensemble shenanigans are the best.
Not for nothing, catching skin with their boogie-rooted groove from the beginning, the group smear brass all over “Only I Got What The Other Guys Want” that was well tested on stage, and set irony in motion to pick up the rough-cut, jealous smirk of “Cheating Love” and delicate smile of “Thanks But No Thanks” along the route to “Love Me Tonight” where sincerity reigns supreme. Beaker’s sentimental heart may be on the collective sleeve in “Where Does Acting Start” as Norman’s economical guitar lines pass proverbial pain to his ragged voice and Nick Steed’s piano, but the organ-oiled funky splashes make “Railway To Roam” a genuine joyride.
Still, whereas the twang and blare of the soulful “Nothing Changes” is muscular, “I Believe In You” has acoustic ripple running through its transparent veins, with Kim Nishikawara’s sax pumping hope into the ballad’s blood, yet it takes Steve Ellis’ silky vocals to make “Time And Tide” the peak of Beaker’s instrumental emotion. Another guest here is Larry Garner whose booming presence looms large on “I Don’t Want A Lover” – a great example of ivories-kissed, bombastic bluesy boasting – but Norman would hardly need extraneous help in playing around “Bottom Of The Slide” which, defying the obvious, doesn’t roll a bottle across the fret, while the unhurried “Hard To Be Somebody” gets his point straight. Not pretending to be anyone else, the veteran casts a self-assured look into the future, reflected in this record’s title. Resting on laurels aren’t on the cardsб and that’s an accolade in itself.