Recently I heard a podcast from the NPR radio show Fresh Air with Terry Gross featuring the 50’s singer/song writer Dion (remember Runaround Sue, The Wanderer, Life Is But a Dream, Little Star, Dream Lover.)
He had his acoustic guitar with him and started talking about his influences and singing the blues. I was really surprised and ordered the CD which I’ve just finished listening to. (I also just got Eric Clapton’s “Sessions for Robert J”) They are somewhat similar in that both go back to basics – a man, a guitar and the blues.
Eric Clapton remains closer to the original artist in style, but still gives the music his own imprint. (It’s a fine CD indeed.) Dion, however, is totally Dion. It is basically Dion strumming along as he sings. There is something completely genuine about his approach to the blues.
I’m a huge Howlin’ Wolf fan, and I love his great job on Willie Dixon’s “Built for Comfort.” It’s a powerful vocal in a unusually good arrangement – so to be truthful you wouldn’t expect a white guy from the Bronx strumming on his guitar to pull that song off. But he does, it really works! The same is true with Statesboro Blues – over the last three decades the Allman Brothers Band have made that song theirs. Again, the strumming Dion pulls it off. Same with Son House’s “Walkin’ Blues” (done later by Robert Johnson), Bo Didley’s “Who Do You Love”, “Crossroads” and “Travelin’ Riverside Blues” by Robert Johnson, “You Better Watch Yourself” by Lightnin Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf’s “How Many More Years” and several more – Dion makes them his own and gives these great blues standards new life.
If you love the blues, listen to that interview with Dion on NPR, and I bet you order this CD too – you’ll be glad you did.