Canada's Black Hen Music has been doing some incredible things these past years. Founded in 1995 by Steve Dawson, a masterful player on what might appear to be nearly all stringed instruments, they began recording in 1996, with an emphasis on the eclectic and primarily acoustic music. Faded But Not Gone is Big Dave McLean's latest release and his debut release on this particular label. The man who ages ago opened for Muddy Waters and was given his first guitar lesson by John Hammond Jr. in 1969 spent his share of time with the "real deal" blues artists, soaking up everything he possibly could in the process. His dedication and love for the music was, and is, the driving force in his life. The ultimate result is an artist whose name should honestly be on the same list as his mentors and all those who came before or since. While the word "legend" is terribly overused many virtually unknown artists rightfully belong on that list. He is a superb guitarist and harmonica player and his gravelly voice has that quality that comes from spending night after night in smoke-filled rooms singing the blues. Faded But Not Gone was recorded during one of the hardest times in his life...the death of both his brother and mother fresh on his heart and mind. As heart-wrenching as this situation might be, it adds a depth to the album that cannot be manufactured, no matter how much one might contort their face or however they might try to convey sorrow. Truth has a quality that cannot be falsified. True blues comes from the deepest regions of the heart, whether one is singing about the best of times or the worst of times. On top of his obvious talents, Mclean is backed by an incredible band featuring Kevin McKendree on keyboards, John Dymond on bass, Gary Craig on drums and, of course, Steve Dawson offering an assist on stringed instruments and even a bit of pump organ. Faded But Not Gone takes a very old-school approach to the music and the performers do it exceptionally well. Also offering an assist on the recording are Colin Linden, Colin James and the McCrary Sisters. McLean's vocal quality falls somewhere between an extra coarse sandpaper and a good single-malt scotch...if that makes any sense. The material is about an equal mix between originals and well-chosen covers. This album has a timeless quality and will most definitely make my list of the top albums of the year. Dawson and company have done it again, and Big Dave McLean may have just released his best work to date. This is good enough to come with a money back guarantee. It is a winner from the opening notes to the close.