Adventures In Bluesland, the newest release from New York-based singer/guitarist Phil Gammage, isn’t what I was expecting, to be frank, and it’s a great/pleasant surprise. I was prepared for a heavy blues-rock sound, but this is much more a “classic” and “natural” sounding affair.
To start this album off with a very Grand Ole Opry-styled rendition of “Trying To Get To You” was an inspired choice, right down to the ’50’s/’60’s-sounding production. There’s something very old-fashioned in Phil’s style. While the solos have a Stevie Ray Vaughan-ness in the tone of the slide guitar runs, it’s as if an old recording has modern embellishments – and that makes an interesting balance. “What Tomorrow Brings” is a perfect example; restrained backing; great harmonies on the chorus and a dive-bomb solo with fire; “Ain’t That Something” is a quiet, moody number straight out of 1957. A nice, down-home version of ZZ Top’s “La Grange” kicks with taut, yet jittery brushes on the drums and the heavy but tightly-wound riff – very Texas honky tonk and very much a highlight of this album; “Kills Me When You’re Gone” is a rich, tense rocker with a strident arrangement and melody. “Baby Let Me Follow Down” (known to most of us as the revamped “Baby Let Me Take You Home” by The Animals) is a pure country feast – pedal slide riffs, harmonica and a sound straight out of Monument Records.
Nothing short of pure American – blues and country roots run deep and felt strongly with these performances. Adventures In Bluesland is not so much an adventure but a pleasurable listening trip.