South By Southwest

No, Nelsen Adelard's new album doesn't have anything to do with Austin's annual South By Southwest music festival. Rather, it traces Adelard's own journey, physical as well as musical, from the West Coast Blues scene to the Deep Blues of McComb Mississippi. Along the way, South By Southwest showcases Adelard's tremendous personal and musical versatility.

The disc includes a few familiar roots standards like Rocket 88 and James Cotton's One More Mile. Most the album however, is original material by Adelard. One of the Renaissance Men of Modern Blues, he lays down vocal, guitar, harmonica and piano tracks for the album ( In addition to writing and arranging eight of South By Southwest's new songs and co-producing the album) 

Adelard clearly enjoys showcasing his musical range, treating listeners to Blues styles as diverse as jump, Chicago electric and even some Blues rock. Some listeners may find this constant variation frustrating. Many others will find the range of musical efforts enchanting. Adelard may sound like Stevie Ray Vaughn on one song, like he's fronting for GE Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band on the next, and then like he's channeling the spirit of jazz singer Scatman Crothers on a third. 

While many of the original tracks draw deeply on Delta traditions, original numbers like I Aint Gona Miss LA and Contractor Blues find their inspiration in more modern sources of misery. 

Occasionally the rhythm on South By Southwest doesn't achieve the same heights reached by the melody and lyrics. But this is one of the few small disappointments on an album that consistently delights and surprises with top quality Blues music.

Jonathan Black