James offers his own tunes (including a wonderful title cut) as well as classic covers of songs by Sleepy John Estes, Robert Johnson, and Willie Dixon, among others. He even manages to slip in a Bob Dylan tune.
But the beauty of this disc is the way he rearranges, or more accurately recreates the feel of these classic songs. So “My Babe” keeps its melody but gets funkier, “Hoochie Coochie Man” becomes a slinky, swinging blues with a fine vocal and masterful acoustic guitar (fans may be surprised how good he is), and “Devil Got My Woman” has him messing with the structure of the chords until it sounds like a jazzbo has entered the room. The playing really does breathe new life into songs. “I’m a Guitar King” is more than a song title, it’s a statement on his playing.
Dion making a record of blues tunes might surprise fans, but really, it’s a logical move. After all, his attitude drove the music of his youth. In fact, the title cut boogie, packed with religious and blues imagery, is summed up in the lines, “I’m the son of Skip James, I’m not loud or brash. I’m a lover, not a fighter, but I can still kick your ass!” Hearing him sing it, you believe every word.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.