Eric Gales spent a good portion of his career in the wilderness -- chalk it up to a combination of bad breaks and addiction -- but he came storming back in 2017 with Middle of the Road, his first album for Provogue/Mascot Records. Peaking at four on the Billboard Blues chart, Middle of the Road brought Gales back in a big way, giving him the confidence to push himself on its 2019 sequel Bookends. Working with producer Matt Wallace -- a stalwart of '90s alt-rock who worked with Maroon 5 after spending time with the Replacements and Faith No More -- Gales doesn't reinvent the wheel, but he does place a greater emphasis on singing and song than he has in the past. It's a subtle but notable difference, one that helps Bookends feel fuller and sharper than many of Gales' past albums and one that also accentuates the recovery undercurrents that flow through the album. By the time he teams up with guest vocalist Beth Hart for a slow-burning version of "With a Little Help from My Friends" -- the second notable cameo on the record, following Doyle Bramhall II's appearance on the neo-autobiographical epic "Southpaw Serenade" -- it's clear that Gales has managed to give not only familiar tunes but familiar blues-rock forms an identifiable stamp, born of both passion and precision.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine