Blues With Friends


KTBA Records, 2020

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Who knew?

Dion Francis DiMucci is part of a vanishing breed. At the age of 80, he is a first-generation rock and roller. As a solo artist and the lead singer of Dion & The Belmonts, he produced such hits as "The Wanderer," "A Teenager In Love," and "Runaround Sue," which led to his induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Dion has re-invented himself a number of times since his early stardom. He was a folk singer in the late 1960s and produced Christian music in the 1980s. During the 1990s, he returned to rock and roll, and during the last decade, he has turned to the blues.

His latest release, Blues For Friends, is one of the better albums of the year and his career. It is not an album of blues covers but of original compositions. He has also surrounded himself with friends, and what a line-up it is. Joe Bonamassa, Rory Block, Bruce Springsteen, Brian Setzer, Jeff Beck, Samantha Fish, Van Morrison, Paul Simon, and more all lend a hand on a song or two. Through it all, however, it remains a Dion album. He does not allow anyone to steal the spotlight but meets each as an equal.

"Blues Comin' On" kicks off the album with Joe Bonamassa providing the guitar pyrotechnics, and it establishes the tone of what will follow. Billy Gibbons continues the guitar support on "Bang Bang Boom." The most inventive track is "Told You Once In August" with the double slide guitars of Rory Block and John Hammond on the left and right channels.

Vocalists such as Van Morrison ("I Ain't Got Nothin'"), Patti Scialfa ("Hymn To Her"), and Paul Simon ("Song For Sam Cooke") all bring different elements to the material. Dion's voice remains intact, and while his guitar work will never equal many of his guests, it does not have to in the context of this release. It his work as a composer that is surprising as the songs are well constructed and fit the blues well. 

Blues With Friends is one of those releases that is a welcome surprise, containing memorable music. For Dion, at the age of 80, who knew?

Rating: B+

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