As much as a steady diet of metal can be fun, there are times when you need to kick back, grab a beer and just relax with some good tunes. For me, early Aerosmith, the Doors or Buffalo Springfield can provide the ideal soundtrack for an afternoon in a semi-recumbent posture (to steal from Oscar Wilde) but lately a certain Ed Dampier has done an equally good job of providing the music while my adrenalin-charged nerves allow themselves time to settle.
Initially bought to my attention because Yves Fernandez, the astonishingly accomplished bassist from the equally wonderful Jurojin, aided Ed by playing bass on the album, ‘Blues Deluxe’ is a testament to Ed’s prodigious skill not only as a guitarist but also as a capable songwriter (the two go hand-in-hand less often than you may think) and the album itself is a heady mix of blues, funk, rock and roll and instrumental prowess. Ably backed by the aforementioned Yves as well as drummer Ed Carlile and multi-instrumentalist Andre Antonio, this is clearly Ed’s show but every player here is clearly top-notch while the relative brevity of the tracks means that the melodies shine without ever becoming over-laboured to the point of tedium. Witness, for example, the beautifully funky ‘two worlds collide’ which is the instrumental Red Hot Chilli Peppers spent over a decade trying to create without ever coming close; or try my personal favourite, ‘Sidewinder blues’ which does exactly what it says on the tin with some fantastic guitar work snaking over a suitably relaxed backing track that holds a lot in common with AC/DC’s ‘gone shootin’ and would be the perfect soundtrack for a long drive across America in an open-topped Cadillac.
A change in pace from the funky strains of ‘two worlds…’, ‘more love more power’ is an instrumental ballad that has hints of Eric Clapton (particularly around the time of his fruitful collaboration with Michael Kamen for the Lethal Weapon Soundtrack), Pink Floyd and Black label Society. It’s a beautiful track that is actually made all the more powerful by the absence of vocals while Ed’s fluid guitar solos are a joy to behold. ‘Archipelago’ forms the lengthiest of the seven tracks on offer here, and it proves itself by being effortlessly diverse, showcasing a rockier side than the other tracks here, veering between atmospheric passages and grungy explosions of sound which add colour and depth to the overall sound without necessarily overpowering the more subtle tracks found elsewhere. With elements of jazz, rock, alternative and blues all on display it is possibly the one song that sounds as if vocals could add something although it’s certainly not the case that they could be considered an essential addition. Most tellingly, Ed is happy to let the other musician shine rather than hog all the lime light and here Ed Carlile’s intensely energetic drumming is the star of the track as he provides a welter of well chosen fills and breaks to enhance the track. ‘Cascades’ is a stunning closer to the disc that recalls the brittle glory of James Blackshaw’s astonishing solo work and you’re once again rightly reminded of Ed’s talent as a player and songsmith.
Blues Deluxe is a success because Ed Dampier is a musician who’s talent is tempered by a generosity of spirit that sees him open up the stage to his fellow musicians. The net result is an album that has breadth and depth beyond what one could typically expect of a solo outing. Furthermore, Ed has recognised that instrumental albums are best kept to a reasonable, ego-free length so that the listener can sit and appreciate (and ideally hanker for more) rather than stumble away from a seventy minute solo-fest dazed and desperately keen to listen to some nu-metal just to get away from the musical prowess being thrust upon them. Here, there is no such danger. Ed’s music is sublime and his skills beyond question. The album itself is one of those gems that you can put on and sink into, allowing your thoughts to roam over the events of the day or week and you’ll never need to skip a track because all seven are perfectly composed. Needless to say that this is not a shred-fest destined to light the fires of your average Children of Bodom fan, but for those who fancy a mature, reflective piece of work that oozes quality and talent, then you could do a lot worse than track down Blues Deluxe.