One day soon, Winnipeg blues boss Big Dave McLean will receive the Order of Canada for his contributions to the nation’s cultural life. Who knew this was coming?
Well, likely most Winnipeggers, as Big Dave has been serving up a heaping helping of his version of the blues to city crowds since the 1970s. Pocket Full Of Nothin’ is his seventh album and third outing for Nashville-based Black Hen Music, which is run by Canadian musician Steve Dawson and his wife, Alice.
Using a group of musicians brought together by Dawson allows McLean the kind of solid support he may not get elsewhere, and it shows on practically every one of these dozen professional-sounding tracks. The horn section, something of a rarity for McLean, is used substantially on hot numbers like the swamp blues Don’t Be Layin’ That Stuff On Me and the swinging All Day Party. Scratchy Hammond B3 organ adds a soulful edge to the easy rolling Voodoo Music and the dirty blues of Just To Be With You.
McLean is in fine voice and, for a guy pushing 70 years young, doesn’t sound like the years of grinding it out on stages in bar rooms across Canada have bothered his vocal cords substantially. There is plenty of McLean guitar work here, too. Though he is placed a little low in the mix, you can still make out his trademark resonator slide-guitar stylings if you pay close attention.
Travel Manitoba will have to make a play for the rights to use the amiable Manitoba Mud, McLean’s self-penned homage that name-checks all the places that make this province a bluesman’s paradise. Order of Canada or not, Big Dave will always wear the crown as Manitoba’s favourite blues dude.