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Doug MacLeod

There’s a Time

Reference Recordings

BluesWax Rating: 10 out of 10


Two years after his last release, the lauded Brand New Eyes, troubadour Doug MacLeod returns with a set of thirteen tunes that emphasize his versatility and expertise in singing, acoustic guitar artistry, and storytelling. This album is proof that MacLeod’s seven nominations in the last eight years by the Blues Foundation for the Blues Music Award as Acoustic Artist of the Year are well deserved. Abetted by consummate professionals Jimi Bott on drums and Denny Croy on bass, MacLeod cavorts, cogitates, and emotes. Consistent with his many records, the songs are originals and are based on his personal experiences (with the exception of “My Inlaws Are Outlaws,” which Doug asserts is “the only song I’ve written that’s not true!” His family will be relieved). They run the gamut from belly-laugh hilarious to eerily spooky to mesmerizingly poignant, an impressive variety that he handles deftly.

The first four songs perfectly demonstrate MacLeod’s range in performance and composition. “Rosa Lee,” the jaunty opener, is a smug tale about a woman of the night with a special fondness for the singer: “I know you gotta pay, but I get her for free.” It’s followed by “Black Nights,” a wrenching blues song about a painfully unsatisfying relationship. (It’s not Charles Brown‘s classic song, “Black Night,” but it’s equally good.) MacLeod’s vocal is moving, and his finger-picking (on his Gibson named “Little Bit”) is dazzling.

Rising from the depths of despair, we next have “The Up Song,” in which Doug advises us to “loosen up, lighten up,” and do every other kind of up, but “don’t give up!” Ribaldry ensues with the risible lament that “My Inlaws Are Outlaws”; we’re not halfway through the album and have already enjoyed the range of blues emotions and MacLeod’s wide-ranging talents.

There are more highlights. (In fact, there is never a let-down.) “The Entitled Few” is a scathing satire of the economic 1%, and “Dubb’s Talking Religion Blues,” one of MacLeod’s ongoing series of talking blues tunes over several albums, is a similarly tart take-down of intolerant religious fundamentalists. In several of the songs, as in past albums, Doug delves into superstition, the supernatural, and the inexplicable: “Run with the Devil,” “Ghost,” and “The Night of the Devil’s Road.” In fact, the shivers that the latter song sends up my spine echo the feeling that I get when listening to similar works by seminal blues greats Blind Willie Johnson and Skip James…and that’s high praise indeed. The effect is augmented by MacLeod’s evocative vocals, including his frequent forays into the field of falsetto. This CD was recorded live, without overdubs. The sound is crisp and the instrumentation is pristine, without frills or pretension. The liner notes include informative biographies of the three musicians and MacLeod’s brief but enlightening descriptions of the provenance and tunings of each song.

Even if you have never heard MacLeod before, you will end up delighted by the breadth and skill of this CD, and its intimacy will probably induce you to think of Doug MacLeod as a new friend. We old friends are equally delighted. If this album isn’t acclaimed by many as best acoustic album of the year, I will be stunned.

- Steve Daniels is a contributing writer at BluesWax.

April, 28th 2013

Click on the album to get to the Blues Revue website