Dion - Girl Friends

Published Friday 5th April 2024
Dion - Girl Friends
Dion - Girl Friends

STYLE: Blues
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 181827-31364

Reviewed by Tony Cummings

Here's an album I've been waiting for for years. Back in 1963 I made a personal discovery of the blues and John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf and Billy Boy Arnold were never off my turntable. Around the same time a school friend turned me on to Dion DiMucci and I fell in love with his rock'n'roll classic "The Wanderer" and found to my amazement his rendition of the "Ruby Baby" doowop anthem was even better than the black original by the Drifters. Then a year or two after my Christian conversion I learnt that this giant of New York pop had, after his own conversion delivered him from heroin addiction, recorded an album 'Inside Out' which to my ears contains one of the greatest gospel tracks ever - "The Truth Will Set You Free". Dion went on to record more gospel albums for Word Records and then stepped away from the insular Nashville CCM bubble and returned to a place he fitted best - the world entertainment stage. Rock and pop stars lined up to guest on his albums and stage performances and he's gained piles of awards and accolades. In 2007 the veteran released the 'Son Of Skip James' album and showed that his lazy, Bronx tones were perfect to breathe new life into the raw 12 bar anthems of a black country blues legend. And now this 84 year old music master (yep, he's that old!) has delivered his third album for Joe Bonamassa's Keeping The Blues Alive label. The concept of bringing in "girl friend" guests on every track - from Grammy-nominated country singer Carlene Carter to the gutsy voiced Valerie Tyson who can usually be heard fronting her own band at a bar in Fort Lauderdale - is a winning one. Not all Dion's lady guests are singers, at least on this record. The delicious guitar licks of Susan Tedeschi on "Soul Force" and the deft fiddle playing that Randi Fishenfield brings to the haunting "Endless Highway" add greatly to what are the best two songs on the set. Elsewhere Debbie Davies, who on the sleeve Dion calls "the queen of Chicago blues", and her tasty stylings on "Do Ladies Get The Blues" are a delight and though not quite up there with Buddy Guy, definitely show she is carrying on a proud musical tradition. Valerie Tyson's rich contralto is a one-woman substitute to the kind of sung hooks that add so much to Blind Boys Of Alabama cuts while Rory Block adds harmonies and asides and plays some staccato bottleneck to lift "Don't You Want A Man Like Me". All the DiMucci compositions here are skilfully executed and the only disappointment is that a couple of the lyrics, like the Dion and Christine Ohlman duet "Sugar Daddy" which despite its sly wit ("Any night you get a twinge/You can look me up on Hinge") is not the kind of endorsement of internet dating I'd expect a Christian like Dion to sing. But that proviso aside, this is still a remarkably good album from a singer and songwriter who refuses to show his age.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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