Big Dave McLean is the star of this little gem; no question. But a large amount of credit must also go to producer Steve Dawson who not only mixed and engieered this CD, he also contributed some powerful backups on steel, lap steel, slide, and straight electric, along with banjo, organ, and an instrument called a weissenborn. How can one guy be so talented in so many areas? Don't know, but he is.
Nonetheless, Big Dave IS the soul around which this CD revolves. He opens with "Tough Times," a story well known to all blues performers: No money, no food; you get the picture. The set winds up with Dave doing a vocal solo called "Devil Got My Woman" with nothing but his National steel for accompaniment. In between are ten more thumping, rousing, gut-rending numbers that should plase just about any blues lover. Dave even throws in the Tom Waits number--"Mr. Siegal" - which chronicles the overall unfairness of Life itself.
"Devil's In The Jukebox," written by Ray LaMontagne, demonstrates Dave's gritty and soulful approach to any song, whether he wrote it or not. And this set does include some originals by Dave himself, like "I Best Choose to Pick The Blues," "The Fallen," a tribute to his dead brother, and "Shades of Grace," a poignant elegy for his mother.
One of the best cuts, at least form this side of the hill, is "Oh-Mr. Charlie-Oh." This baby has 'graveyard' written all over it: ghostly specters, shackles and chains, a hanging. It also has the pain-wracked and lonely pedal steel of Steve Dawson and the wailing of Big Dave's mouth harp. But believe it or not, the cut also has an upbeat message: "You can trample me down all you want, but you ain't never gonna take away my spirit."
This is a great album by a Canadian bluesman who is long overdue to make some major inroads into the American blues scene.