The soundtrack companion to an HBO film directed by George C. Wolf and based on Ruben Santiago-Hudson's acclaimed one man show (Santiago-Hudson wrote the screenplay adaptation and appears in the film) about a black youth coming of age in upstate New York in the early 1960s, Lackawanna Blues mixes new material by Mos Def, Robert Bradley and Macy Gray (all of whom have roles in the film) with classic blues, gospel and R&B from the likes of Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker, J.J. Jackson and others. Mos Def does his throwback jump blues routine on the set opener, the classic "Caldonia," and "Destination Love," while Bradley adds "Dark Road," "Something Inside Me" and a striking moody duet with Gray on his "Down on Me." The highlights of the set, though, are the vintage tracks from Jimmy Scott (the impeccably orchestrated "If I Ever Lost You" from 1960), Tommy Tucker (an easy grooving "High Heel Sneakers" from 1963), and folk virtuoso Etta Baker, whose acoustic guitar work on her signature "One Dime Blues" is simply stunning. As a sequence, Lackawanna Blues flows well, and while the newly recorded material is obviously necessary for the film, it feels a little manufactured and a bit intrusive when placed next to the vintage stuff, but only by degree, making this a nice, brief nostalgia-tinged snapshot of the film.
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett