For their first studio album since the underwhelming “Bigger Bang” in 2005, the venerable Rolling Stones went back to their roots as a blues band, offering twelve blues classics from the likes of Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Little Walter. How inspired could this be, coming from 70-something millionaires that have spent the last 25 years writing the blueprints for corporate rock? Surprisingly, a lot.
Recorded over three days with no overdubs, the band manages to recapture some of the magic of their early recordings quite well. Sure, billionaires don’t have much reason to be blue about anything, but there’s still an honesty in their approach that flows from their love for this form of music. The songs don’t have the sense of danger the band had in the 60’s (the opener “Just Your Fool” comes close), but is that really surprising?
Mick Jagger’s voice is still very well suited for this type of music, and he wails on the harmonica throughout the album. The guitar-slinging duo of Keith Richards and Ron Wood unleashes some tasty licks too, and are joined on “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” by Eric Clapton for some great slide guitar. “Slowhand” also plays lead on the closing track “I Can’t Quit You Babe”, which sounds quite different from Led Zeppelin’s take on the Willie Dixon classic. Charlie Watts is still reliable as ever on the drum kit, laying down the groove with their long time touring bassist Darryl Jones.
As an homage to Chicago blues, and a nostalgic look back to their formative years, the album works very well. It also shows that rolling stones really gather no moss: the Stones haven’t sounded this good and this sincere in a long time. It’s just too bad it comes with an album cover that looks like a passing grade assignment in an “Introduction to Photoshop” class.
Surely they can’t afford another 11 year before making another album; if “Blue & Lonesome” is their swan song, it will bookend in a nicely symmetrical way their amazingly long career.