This isn’t my first encounter with the music of big Dave McLean, but it’s the best one. Weaving country gospel, pure Delta blues and more, Better The Devil You Know digs deep and comes up with a true blues experience.
Produced by Steve Dawson, an amazing artist in his own right, this disc is as rich sonically as it is musically and lyrically. Big Dave, the son of a Presbyterian minister, gives the devil his due (figuratively speaking) while using lots of spiritual references. Talk About A Revolution was inspired by the mass shootings in Paris, there are a couple of songs in tribute to fallen loved ones, while Dawson contributed The Side of The Road (about Skip James) and Angeline, about Blind Willie Johnson leaving his wife with nothing but the blues.
As blues albums go, Better The Devil You Know is an embarrassment of riches. Billboard magazine’s Larry LeBlanc once wrote that Big Dave “has done more to shape western Canada’s blues scene than perhaps any other artist”, and with his latest album he’s STILL doing it. Colin James and Wide Mouth Mason take inspiration from this guy, and so does anybody that will bend an ear. He gives a nod to his hero Muddy Waters with great version of Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had and to end the album in fine blues style, visited Jack White’s studio to record Johnny Shines’ Pet Rabbit in White’s 30’s style recording booth. When it comes to lowdown blues, Big Dave McLean’s new record is as real as it gets.