If there is a music that is the essence of Memphis, it is blues. Jazz came up the river from New Orleans, of course, gospel had a foothold here, rock and roll was born when the blues was taken up by white kids who had been raised on hillbilly music. Later Memphis would be known for soul. But through it all, blues has been Memphis’ one constant, no matter what other changes might occur, and even a soul label like Stax had a formidable roster of blues artists.
And in discussing the album Bluesfinger from Memphis’ Daddy Mack Blues Band, the mention of Stax Records is appropriate, for the spirit and influence of Stax hovers lovingly over nearly every track. “Mailman”, the second track on the album shows a stylistic affinity with long-time Stax bluesman Albert King, while the title track is a reworking of the Bar-Kays’ legendary “Soulfinger”, retitled to emphasize the blues nature of the band and the tune itself. Other fine-crafted blues tunes deal with hard financial time (“Great Recession Blues”), the difficult life on the road for blues musicians (“Long Hard Road”) or standard themes of love and desire (“Can’t Make It Without Your Love”, “If You Got It”). The final track “Always Want You” leaves the Memphis sonic landscape for that of New Orleans, showing the style of blues from Louisiana that helped give birth to the genre known as “swamp pop.” Bluesfinger makes few concessions to current trends or popular tastes, but for fans of true Memphis soul and blues and the sounds of classic Stax, this new album is a dream come true.