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WOLF MAIL Live Blues In Red Square ZKS/BSMF Records (2009)

Wolf Mail

They say blues is an international language and that has certainly proved to be the case for rock blues guitarist Wolf Mail. Born in Canada, raised in the south of France and now residing in California, 'Live Blues in Red Square' finds this edgy rock-blues guitarist doing his stuff in front of an appreciative Moscow crowd.

Wolf's most obvious influences are Albert Collins and Johnny Winter and both are well represented in his playing style which veers from some stop-start staccato runs to Winter's more fluid style on the back of lightning fast runs. But it's a raw nervous energy that lights Mail's fuse, leading to an edgy spontaneous attack that at times evokes Buddy Guy. But there the similarities end, for though Wolf is a very intense player whose feverish style cuts a swathe between say Buddy Guy and Rory Gallagher, he doesn't quite have the vocals to put across his not inconsiderable talent.

His style is edgy, his tone is clear and his licks are fluid enough, but a combination of a plodding band and some run-of-the-mill material hampers even the best moments here.

Wolf is unsurprisingly happiest on Albert Collins 'Honey Hush' and the impressive instrumental 'Blue Rose', whilst the gentle blues of 'Hello' gives him another avenue with which to explore some crystal clear notes. Wolf also alters his attack and tone on the altogether tougher and Hendrix influenced (think 'Band of Gypsies' era) 'So Fine'.

On the closing 'We The People' he is joined by accomplished guitarist and Russian blues hero Arsen Shomakhow and the pairing work up a nice little groove. But all these lovely little moments have to offset by the lamentable 'Love Breakin' Shuffle' on which the rhythm section really lumbers along and the fact that despite some cool guitar lines on the spuriously titled 'Nov 27 Blues/Sky's Cryin' (Elmore James' 'The Sky is Crying') Wolf can't ever hope to express the raw emotion of such a blues song while he finds it difficult to phrase a lyric.

Too often he mumbles his words and he does so in the spoken word scat section of 'Honey Hush' And that's a shame for here is a very passionate performer and one that festival fans will surely be drawn to. Like so many other axe slingers his vocals let him down. One for guitar fans only.


Review by Pete Feenstra

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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