Bob Margolin My Road

By Matt MacDonald
January 2016

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The latest release from singer/songwriter/guitarist and Muddy Waters Band alumnus Bob Margolin features 12 songs, seven of which are his own compositions, including one co-written with harp/guitar player Tad Walters. His strong writing and the surefooted backing of Walters and drummer/vocalist Chuck Cotton make for a thoughtful, understated album.

In fact, the word that comes to mind for My Road is “philosophical”. Recently, I had the chance to read a very engaging article by Margolin in Blues Music Magazine. It was all about aging, its path, and the acceptance of it. Almost every song here follows these themes in one way or another.

Of them, three of his originals best represent his effort to make sense of things. The catchy Chicago sounding opener “My Whole Life” exclaims and explains his concise summation of his fifty years onstage; the reflective “Understanding Heart” (with excellent rhythm harp from Walters) reaps the seed of a lesson first sowed as a child; and the wry “Young And Old Blues” (the closest musical counterpart to his article) amusingly marks the tipping see-saw points of perception. Add “More And More”, which deals with true love found, and a lot of life is touched on. These songs – with the exception of that last one – would also be hard for one to cover convincingly. This is when My Road is at its best: when it’s at its most personal.

That being said, while the covers are well chosen, one of them really jumps out. Nappy Brown’s “Bye Bye Baby” is sung as a duet with Chuck Cotton backed by Walters’ acoustic harmonica. It starts off simply enough, but then the interplay between the three becomes more intricate. It isn’t tongue twistingly complicated, but it sounds as if they’ve been doing this song together forever and, for an album dwelling so much on the passage of time, it fits.

Similarly, the folk-country sounding “Ask Me No Questions” could be from a century ago. It was surprising to see that this song about the return of someone long gone – and the very mixed emotions it brings – was co-written by Walters and Margolin. In mood, content, and mindset, it works.

While My Road is a very strong effort, Margolin’s singing voice takes a little getting used to. It’s deep – sometimes very deep – which is fine but, on some songs, it sounds almost like an ever so slightly slowed down tape playing. To varying extent, “More And More”, “I Shall Prevail”, and “Goodnight” fall into this category. Listening for the first time, I thought to myself, “Well, that’s just Bob.” But on other tunes it’s not nearly as noticeable and, on “Feelin’ Right Tonight” it doesn’t come across that way at all. Perhaps it’s a style choice. In any case, I got used to it quickly - his confident, relaxed delivery of meaningful songs no doubt helped with that.

In short, Margolin’s introspective expression and his trio’s comfort with each other make My Road both a worthwhile and an enjoyable listening experience.

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