Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gary Lucas & Dean Bowman Do Blues, Gospel, Spirituals and More

One thing about Gary Lucas that I admire is that he is unpredictable. Chinese pop, Beefheart, movie music, world music collaborations, one can never be sure what will be next. What is a constant is his consummate artistry.

And so with his latest, Chase the Devil (Knitting Factory Records), a series of duets with vocalist Dean Bowman. It's a moving collection of roots music of a gospel-blues sort. There are traditional spirituals, classic Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Gary Davis, Blind Willie Johnson, a Judaic hymn, and some rooted originals, among other surprises.

What makes it here is the convincing blend of soulful vocals, classic material and Gary Lucas's wide-ranging acoustic and electric guitar artistry. Gary's wonderful fingerpicking is on display but so is his blazing electric work. Superficially one might think this is leagues away from his work with Captain Beefheart in the years past. But no, the Captain was in most respects an avant blues artist and this album carries on the idea that the blues is what you can imagine it to be. Gary and Dean imagine a different spin on it all. They succeed superbly.

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