American Roots Sessions Album Review: Luke Winslow-King - "Everlasting Arms"

Album Review: Luke Winslow-King “Everlasting Arms”

Due September 30th on Bloodshot Records

Interlude II – evil, minor chord slide guitar

On his fourth studio album, Everlasting Arms, New Orleans’s Luke Winslow-King comes out swinging. Literally; or at least literally in the Roaring Twenties use of the term. The album-opening title track finds the slide guitar virtuoso paying a modern blues homage to a timeless Gospel hymn. The understated guitar, mid-tempo soul and the vocal interplay between Winslow-King and his wife and bandmate Esther Rose strike a familiar note that is, somehow, all its own.  While it’s his second album in as many years for Bloodshot Records, 2013’s The Coming Tide was actually written several years prior to its release, meaning that our now-married leading man had ample time to hone his craft with a compass perhaps shifted a little closer to home.

While this is the blues, there’s a happy sweetness that’s at the core of the bulk of Everlasting Arms. The album’s second rollicking track, “Swing that Thing,” revs the accelerator, and we start to get a glimpse of Winslow-King’s bread and butter, the slide guitar. Opting for quick-hitting riffs rather than Hendrixian solos, Winslow-King perfectly channels the soul of his machine, playing with a fire that somehow belies his thirty-one years of age (never mind his Michigan roots). Let us not forget that while the blues may have its home in the Mississippi delta, the waters of the area’s namesake river start their epic journey south from near the Canadian border, bringing with it the dirt and grime and roots of a variety of walks of life. The same can be said of Winslow-King’s music.

While Everlasting Arms is rooted in the blues, there’s more than enough country (the good kind, not the pop kind), soul, Gospel, swing and Southern rock to go around. Ever the music student, Winslow-King approaches the Americana blues with a well-appreciated reverence. Homage, in many ways, is the order of the day. Like many artists in the folk and Americana worlds, bluesmen have long had a history of paying respectful tribute to the artists that came before them. Rarely does an artist come along that seeks to truly reinvent the wheel, and Luke Winslow-King is no different; that’s not the point of the exercise. The warm, vintage mid-tempo tone resonating from Winslow-King’s, well, resonator on songs like the percussion and horn-heavy reworking of “La Bega’s Carousel,” would be perfectly appropriate cranking from an old Victor Talking Machine in your granddaddy’s front parlor.

Alas, that is not to say that Everlasting Arms is an album of covers and derivative remakes; far from it in fact.  Songs like “Domino Sugar” and “The Crystal Water Spring” perfectly blend the throwback and the contemporary, and would make Winslow-King sound equally at home performing alongside John Lee Hooker or Jason Isbell. While Everlasting Arms can certainly stand on its own merits, perhaps the greatest thing about Winslow-King’s second Bloodshot Records release is opening keeping the tradition and the music of the past alive for a new era. Lofty, but well-deserved praise. Check this one out.


 

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