Camino 1994 / Esoteric 2016
A key to acolyte’s highway: most unusual, yet perfectly logical, entry in art-rock guitarist’s log.
The very notion of Steve Hackett playing blues may seem alien to those who know him as a proponent of prog rock, but the veteran’s easily recognizable harmony guitar sound is rooted in the wail of harmonica, and it was only a matter of time before the two instruments came together on a record. Seamlessly stitching classics, such as Little Walter-penned title track, to original numbers, Steve doesn’t try to emulate old masters, although the rollicking “Born In Chicago” holds a lot of Windy City ghosts; instead, there’s a refraction of the American genre through Hackett’s own style.
This alchemical marriage of the idioms, as well as his love of all things noir, is perfectly realized in “Tombstone Roller” with its stinging orchestral drama, while Freddie King’s boisterous “The Stumble” is stripped of Cannonball-isms to host a hint of melancholy that, on the same Texas turf, fully unfolds in “Big Dallas Sky” – a sleek and coldly modern piece. Just as elegiac, yet nostalgic, “A Blue Part Of Town” and a newly recorded bonus “On Cemetery Road” take despondency across the Pond and graft it onto an old-timey sort of loneliness, a total opposite to “Solid Ground” whose roaring abandon gradually dissolves in urban desolation.
Unlike these, timelessly echoey “Love Of Another Kind” might not stray from a 12-bar template but, given a furious series of solo spurts, it’s as catchy as it gets, and if blues ever needed shredding, the boogie of “Footloose” has it in spades, whereas “Way Down South” provides a playground for Hackett’s vibrato, and another fresh cut, “Patch Of Blue,” for Steve’s equally famous sustain. There’s also a shadow of “Los Endos” and a “Sweet Home Chicago” quote to complete the circle and demonstrate the artist’s wholesome approach to whatever music he’s up to delving in. Its common denominator being the feeling, that’s the only thing that matters.