This is Melvin’s fourth record for the Evidence label, and like the rest, it’s a showcase of his dazzling technique and deep soul. This guy is a treasure. Perhaps it’s because he’s hard to pigeonhole. He’s definitely a blues player, but he’s not afraid to turn it up, step on the wah and let ‘er rip. Maybe that makes some of the purists cringe, but it shouldn’t.
Most everything here is a cover; B.B. King’s “Help the Poor” features Melvin lifting the Robben Ford arrangement from the late ’80s. And his playing sings over the proceedings. Nasty licks, and even a few “Robbenisms” make it a real guitar-fest type of song. The jazzy instrumental “Comin’ Home Baby” lets him show off some chord and octave work that would be welcome in any jazz club. And the chorused solo out is wonderful in its tastefulness.
In that same vein is “Eclipse,” which has some soulful playing, paying homage to Jimi along the way. Stephen Stills’ acoustic chestnut “Black Queen” is turned into a fiery electric blues with Melvin’s guitar leading the way. There’s even a re-make of Z.Z. Top’s “Blue Jean Blues” that makes the tune seem written for Melvin.
Scorching solos and plaintive vocals are everywhere. For “I’m the Man Down There,” Melvin pulls out the trick bag. The horn-driven blues lets him show off the chops and versatility, and he doesn’t disappoint. Vocally, Melvin is more than adequate. He’s not a blues shouter with the huge voice, but everything he sings is soulful and heartfelt.
I’m amazed Melvin doesn’t garner more attention. He’s got the chops, the pedigree, and most importantly the heart and soul. His band cooks, helped by the wonderful Lucky Peterson, who splits his time between B-3 and guitar on the entire CD.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct. ’04 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.