John Mayall

Three For The Road

(Forty Below Records)

This release finds veteran Mayall leading a trio-format crew on various stages for this live album. Something of a departure as John usually has a hotshot lead guitarist on board, but this decision does mean that the three musicians have to adapt to the configuration and play out and it does bring something fresh out of the songs included. Mayall is listed on the cover as playing keyboards and harp but as the front cover photo shows, he does play guitar. Usually ones he made himself. On bass we have the lively and agile Greg Rzab and the somewhat Buddy Milesian figure of Jay Davenport on drums. Of course after all these years on stage together everything gels. John avoids any material needing heavier guitar work but that still leaves him hundreds of songs to choose setlists from. The recordings were made in Germany.

After the spoken introduction, the three shuffle into the first number. Big Town Playboy is the old Eddie Taylor song and Mayall delivers the tune with tongue in cheek, playing blues piano and harp with a staccato leaning. I Feel So Bad goes back to Lightnin’ Hopkins of course and has a pacey tempo and arrangement in this incarnation. The bass tone fat and nimble, the drums crisp and agile.

Curtis Salgado penned the wry The Sum of Something and here is a good-times-rolling take with plenty of jazzy piano and Chicago-style walking bass. John’s voice has lost none of its authority and is pleasantly thicker than of yore. Next up, Streamline is a Mayall original based on a rhumba beat, the drumming here is excellent as the Hammond puffs away on the groove. Maybe the best cut on the collection. He always did make the train songs work! Then we get Tears Came Rollin’ Down was written by Henry J Townsend of course. Classic, ominous rolling piano sets the scene. The legato guitar is missed, it must be said. The band keeps things agreeably sparse and dark.

Lionel Hampton came up with Ridin’ On The L&N decades ago and most of us have played the song quite a few times in live performances. It’s a lively, syncopated piano-led version on this set, words crystal clear. On to Don’t Deny Me by Jerry Lynn Williams with chugging Hammond leading the progression. Very professional delivery. John’s own Lonely Feelings uses the vibes setting on the keys producing a real midnight vibe. The confident harp enhances the tune. Closing selection Congo Square was made famous by Sonny Landreth and if memory serves features on the great Spinning Coin album by Mayall when Buddy W was aboard. It’s an eleven-minute belter here. The harp sets sail, then the pounding Noo Awlins drumming starts up, the stalking bass keeping things moving.

A different twist this time from Mayall, the man born to bring blues to the stage.

Pete Sargeant


(Many thanks to Tracy)

John Mayall's new live album 'Three For The Road' is out now on Forty Below Records.

For more information visit his official website here:

John Mayall