The blues, Abi Wallenstein sings here, is „a good old friend of mine.” Abi regards the blues as a place where he can go for comfort when times are hard, as welcome as a letter from a loved one. In this collection, however, Abi’s blues serve more as a departure point than a destination. Appropriately enough for Hamburg’s favorite bluesmaker, these originals and cover songs represent a journey to a myriad of stylistic ports of call, from traditional country honk to raunchy rave-ups and radical reinterpretations of rock classics.
For a tasty spoonful of stripped-down roots authenticity listen to Abi, Steve Baker on harp and ace percussionist Martin Röttger deftly take on “Death Letter Blues”, the seminal traditional ballad popularised by Son House. Their seemingly simple, straightforward approach is enhanced by Abi’s gravely reading of the mournful tale of loss. Leadbelly’s “Silver City Bound”, a highlight of Nina Simone’s live show, appears here as a lighthearted, upbeat country blues. Remaining in the core trio format (this time with Henry Heggen on harp), Abi completely rethinks “Taxman”, restructuring the George Harrison tune from a 60’s pop chestnut into a wry blues lament. Similarly, he dusts off “Off The Hook”, a long-overlooked Jagger/Richards-penned blues from the Stones’ infancy, giving it a rousing new interpretation.
The breadth of Abi’s versatility is heard in the jaunty “Ramona”, a Cajun-inflected original composition that features outstanding solo runs by Kai Dorenkampf on accordion and Günther Liebetruth, clarinette. Other remarkable examples of Abi’s songwriting skills include the country blues “Written By A Friend Of Mine”, the expressive gospel-tinged ballad “Leaving To Stay” and “Rockin’ Shoes”, a Bo Diddley-influenced raver that features a crack cajon solo by Röttger.
Even Southern blues rock gets a nod on this album: the hard-driving “Destination Mississippi”, another Abi Wallenstein original, evokes the spirit of the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd in a rollicking song of the road.
Whether it’s newly-written music, a favorite traditional blues or a cover of a long-forgotten gem, Abi makes the song his own. Gathering the best of Hamburg’s esteemed musicians around him, Abi Wallenstein digs deep into his experience and heart to express the universality of the blues to his audiences.
Who, of course, welcome him like a good old friend.