Dion is one of the true fathers of rock'n'roll. He sang doo wop with the Belmonts, played driving, tough rock on his own, and made several very good folk albums in the late '60s and early '70s. A 1996 live recording, Dion n Little Kings Live in New York, showed that he could still, at close to 60, rock harder than most guys half his age.
As Dion tells us in the liner notes to his new disc, Bronx in Blue, "When I was a kid there was no Rock & Roll." Like many other kids in the early '50s, he got his inspiration from the blues and country music he heard on AM radio. He covers 12 tunes from his roots here -- by Robert Johnson, Jimmy Reed, and Hank Williams, among others -- and adds two of his own songs, which fit right in.
Accompanied only by his own guitar (double-tracked, on occasion) and by some simple percussion by Bob Guertin, Dion reminds us that honest emotion, not flashy guitar soloing, is what makes these songs so special and enduring. His guitar playing shows an unexpected mastery of blues styles, and the solos are strongly felt and beautifully developed.
Bronx in Blue is well served by a vibrant, intimate recording. It captures the distinctive warm tones of the classic acoustic guitars Dion plays and nicely highlights Guertins subtle assistance throughout the disc. With all the loud, dishonest blues discs being released these days, Bronx in Blue gives me faith that this music still has value and that it will outlive that of all the posers.
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