Kevin Selfe

Kevin Selfe
Long Walk Home

Delta Groove

By Tony Del Rey
April 2013

Given the stasis of contemporary blues music, the demand for something more substantive than a rehash of conventional chord patterns, shop-worn lyrics and recycled guitar moves that constitute blues albums these days is pretty much nonexistent. This state of affairs might explain how a disc like Kevin Selfe’s Long Walk Home could borrow so heavily on fixed forms and still draw raves from blues boosters for its originality and innovation.

As another in a long line of guitar prodigies saddled with the label of “Blues’ latest rising star,” Selfe’s strafing style of play no doubt turns many heads in small clubs and local venues. The guy is pretty good with his mitts. Yet for all his self-assured soloing and steady command of the fret board, Selfe’s reliance on all-too-familiar blues riffs as inspiration for his material robs the album of any artistic energy worth writing about.

Not that the material is overtly weak. As blues records go, Long Walk Home boasts some of the most competent musicianship you’re likely to hear on a digital recording. Whether called upon to perform in full-blown swing style on “Walkin’ Funny,” or asked to exude an after-hours supper club feel for “Moving Day,” the players working alongside Selfe are more than adequate at delivering their lines with stopwatch efficiency.

The sting in the tail occurs the instant listeners realize that Long Walk Home is essentially a brace of re-worked blues numbers retro-fitted with new lyrics and modern-day studio tailoring. Savvy music lovers will surely draw comparisons between the aforementioned, “Walkin’ Funny” and Louis Prima’s 1956 hit single, “Juke, Jive and Wail,” while recognizing “Moving Day” as being a dead ringer for BB King’s Live At The Regal version of “How Blue Can You Get.”

There are others: “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool,” closely mirrors Albert King’s rendition of “The Hunter,” while Selfe’s “Second Box On The Left” is a carbon copy of the old Floyd Dixon tune, “Hey, Bartender.” But what artist working within the strict confines of the blues medium hasn’t borrowed (and borrowed heavily) from past masters? And therein lies the problem.

Let’s face it: Long Walk Home isn’t destined to be a money-spinner for the simple reason that there aren’t any great songs on it. Far too much emphasis on the solo and the bow afterward, and nothing substantive in the way of fresh creative output make it just another blues record… and this reviewer sound like a broken one.

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