Tom Hambridge – Blu Ja Vu
Tom Hambridge – Blu Ja Vu
Label: Quarto Valley Records
Release date: September 15, 2023
When you have a musical career as a singer and drummer that includes writing over 1000 songs, producing 100 albums, and working with everyone from Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley to Buddy Guy – two things come to mind. You must be exceptionally talented. You must be Tom Hambridge.
Hambridge is the four-time Grammy-winning whirlwind talent behind – among many other projects – three of blues legend Buddy Guy’s most critically acclaimed albums: ‘Living Proof’ (2011), ‘Born To Play Guitar’ (2016), ‘The Blues Is Alive And Well’ (2018), Keb Mo’s ‘Good To Be’ (2022) and for his work on rising blues star Christone “Kingfish” Ingram’s albums ‘662’ (2022) and ‘Kingfish’ (2020).
Hambridge has been such a prodigious creator and producer of music that Guy says of him: “Someone like that comes along only once in a lifetime. I call him the white Willie Dixon.”
But every once in a while, Hambridge takes time out to make an album just for himself. His latest, Blu Ja Vu, is the first since his 2018 The NOLA Sessions, a sparkling tribute to New Orleans music.
‘Blu Ja Vu’ is a look back at some of the songs Hambridge has written or co-written – usually with Richard Fleming — and produced for his musical friends. A few of them return the favor here, so it’s bluesy déjà vu all over again.
Hambridge launches this set with one of his most famous partners, Buddy Guy, featuring a vocal duet on the raucous, hard driving “Ain’t It Just Like Love” with a rollicking honky-tonk piano break from Kevin McKendree, followed by a fierce Guy guitar explosion. Joe Bonamassa joins in next for “That’s My Home,” adding his powerful vocals and more wicked guitar work behind a restless refrain, “Where I put down my guitar, that’s my home.” “Wear You Out,” cowritten with Gary Nicholson, is a testament to a ’54 Stratocaster, a seventy-something Eldorado, and a woman who “couldn’t be satisfied” so “I ain’t slowing down till I wear you out.”
“Blues Don’t Care” brings in Christone “Kingfish” Ingram on guitar and vocals for a tough blues lecture on just how little the blues cares “You try to run, but there’s no escape, it’s the middle finger on the hand of fate.” Rob McNelley adds feverish guitar licks to express the chills of “Sick With Love,” then “Automatic” drives hard with some auto-erotic lyricism: “I got a T-Bird Ford, 1965, 4-barrel V8, I’d like to give you a ride – it’s automatic.” “Symptoms of Love” is another Hambridge solo effort, which pairs nicely with the musical diagnosis of “Sick With Love.”
“Brother John Boogie” is a rousing boogie-woogie instrumental featuring harmonica legend James Cotton (R.I.P.) leading the band and ending in a joyous shout. “Get Out Of Town” is a boisterous roadhouse two-stepper filled with barrelhouse piano. Josh Smith provides ethereal guitar tension behind the new awareness found in “Smarter Than I Was” – “She took my soul to a darker side, but halfway there I got wise.” “Johnny Winter” is a blues-rock protest song that asks the very real question: “How come Johnny Winter, he ain’t in the hall of fame?” – that’s the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “Meet Me In Chicago” is co-written by Robert Randolph, and again features the furious razor-sharp guitar of Rob McNelley, drenched in a desire to get back to sweet home Chicago.
The very fitting album closer, “End Of The Line,” is an eloquently phrased little blues, gently offered for our thoughtful consideration: “So many of my friends have gone, maybe my time ain’t long, but I promise ‘til the day I die, I’m gonna keep the blues alive. But I feel sometimes like I’m the end of the line.” But if Blu Ja Vu shows us anything, it’s that Tom Hambridge can be counted on to create great music … again … and again … and again – Jim White
01. Ain’t It Just Like Love (Featuring Buddy Guy)
02. That’s My Home (Featuring Joe Bonamassa)
03. Wear You Out
04. Blues Don’t Care (Featuring Christone Kingfish Ingram)
05. Sick With Love (Featuring Rob McNelly)
07. Symptoms Of Love
08. Brother John Boogie (Featuring James Cotton)
09. Get Out Of Town
10. Smarter Than I Was (Featuring Josh Smith)
11. Johnny Winter
12. Meet Me In Chicago (Featuring Rob McNelly)
13. End Of The Line