Blue & Lonesome

The Rolling Stones

No retirement announcements, no farewell tours, their fabled 50th anniversary come and gone — the Stones, gathering no moss, just keep on rolling. And now, right out of the blue (in more ways than one), there's an album to cap off 2016. Blue & Lonesome is filled with covers, so the Glimmer Twins didn't have to spend time writing new songs. Instead, they went back to their roots for their first studio release in over a decade, and knocked out 12 salty renditions of blues classics in three days. Not bad for a bunch of crusty old geezers in their 70s.

At this point, the Stones have nothing left to prove — except in showing the world they can still jam. That's pretty much what Blue & Lonesome is about. Like their blues heroes before them (whose songs make up the record), the Stones pull back the shades, take a seat, invite friends like Eric Clapton to the party, relax and get down to the business of sending shivers down the emotive membrane.

The first three tracks on the album — Buddy Johnson's "Just A Fool," Howlin' Wolf's "'Commit A Crime" and title track, written by Memphis Slim — are raw and furious barn burners. Keith Richards and Ron Wood work the flow and color the breaks; drummer Charlie Watts, bassist Daryl Jones and pianist Chuck Leavell drive the train, cross the T's and dot the I's; and Mick Jagger blows the harp and soulfully imbues the verses. Richards has repeatedly said this is the Jagger he loves and respects, and it's not hard to agree. Little Walter's "I Gotta Go" and "Hate To See you Go" are two more that find the Stones frontman summoning his purest, most convivial performances.

Magic Sam's "All Of Your Love" is the first of the slower numbers, a heavy breather for the faint of heart and a showcase for Leavell's tinkling fingers. Clapton sits in to sweeten up two others — Miles Grayson and Lermon Horton's "Everybody Knows About My Good Thing" and Willie Dixon's "I Can't Quit You Baby" (smoother and tamer than Led Zeppelin's version). If "Little Rain" doesn't finish you off, then you need to do some serious soul searching. Meanwhile, the rambunctious churn behind Eddie Taylor's "Ride 'Em On Down" offers up a swift kick in the pants and a sassy video featuring actress Kristen Stewart, a classic Mustang GT and a zebra on the streets of Los Angeles. If you watch closely, you'll see the infamous tongue and lip logo pop up as Stewart races by.

It's reasonable to believe Blue & Lonesome could very well be the last Rolling Stones album, though you'll never hear them admit it. For the last 10 years or so, the band has been more inclined to pay reverence to their past and having fun than advancing their future. Writing songs and planning a big record is likely the last thing they want to do. Playing Cuba and other exotic locales, sharing their rich history via the interactive Exhibitionism, and spontaneously and quickly slapping together an album like Blue & Lonesome without any expectations is far more apropos for the world's greatest rock and roll band.

~ Shawn Perry

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