Bronx in Blue


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Bronx in Blue Review

by William Ruhlmann

Since his doo wop beginnings in the 1950s, Dion has tried a number of different musical styles, including the rock & roll of his early-'60s solo work and his late-'60s folk-pop phase. He also played the blues, if less prominently (see for example the belatedly released Bronx Blues album), and he again tries the style here in what he bills as a return to his roots, to music he listened to on long-distance radio stations in his youth. Accompanying himself on one or more guitar tracks, and joined by a percussionist, he runs through a selection of blues standards that leans heavily on Robert Johnson, but also includes songs by Chicago blues stalwarts like Howlin' Wolf and even that country bluesman Hank Williams. Dion is an excellent guitarist, and his voice is in good shape. His approach is not exactly traditional; he throws in his own words to several songs, going on about the benefits of green tea in Lightnin' Hopkins' "You Better Watch Yourself," for example, and includes two originals, "I Let My Baby Do That" and "If You Wanna Rock & Roll." At the same time, the spare instrumentation gives the performances an authentic feel, and Bob Schnieders has been hired to write extensive liner notes detailing the sources of the songs, as if the album were an academic exercise. Dion isn't going to make anybody forget Blind Willie McTell or Jimmy Reed on this album, but his renditions are effectively and sincerely performed.

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