Jill Newman travels back to a simpler time on Lovestruck Blues
Blame the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. And, while you’re at it, the White Stripes, Black Keys, and every other act that at some point decided the only thing Robert Johnson’s old recordings were missing was a lethal injection of distortion and some serious tub-thumping on the back-end. Somewhere along the line, blues rock fell out of fashion, replaced by blues rawk that sounds more indebted to Led Zeppelin than Leadbelly.
Jill Newman dials back time on Lovestruck Blues, a record that features an unfussy and economical production job that’s retro-sounding without seemingly precious or coldly calculated. The singer has a voice that’s more well-worn country twang than back-alley blues, but that works to her advantage on numbers like the strutting “Too Hard to Handle” and the last-call shuffle “Without You”.
As for the playing, if you’re looking for obnoxious showboating, better to haul that old Stevie Ray Vaughan vinyl out of the crawl space. Newman’s unflashy but solid work always comes down on the right side of tasteful, so close your eyes and cue up the title track and you’re transported to a honky-tonk somewhere deep in Tennessee—the kind of place where there’s sawdust on the floor, cigarette smoke hangs thick in the air, and no one has ever heard of those overamped phonies known as the Soledad Brothers.
Mike Usinger on Twitter at @mikeusinger.