The Blues: An Evolution

This is a solid blues compilation, but despite the subtitle, there’s really nothing very evolutionary about it. There’s good songwriting and tight playing here by all four of the featured artists—Big Dog Mercer, Brandon Santini, Danny and the Devils, and Tom Holland and the Shuffle Kings—but all 12 songs are entirely within the familiar blues tradition, except, perhaps, where bits of rock and country have worked their way into the basic blues format. But, on tracks like the one Danny and the Devils lay down on “Mama’s Boy,” a 2012 fan will find the living and breathing blues in very capable hands. All four ensembles here obviously know their way around a lick or two, and they’re all veterans of lots of nights on the road, playing their hearts out in dark dives and bright afternoon blues fests. Holland has been James Cotton’s guitarist almost a decade, and Big Dog Mercer earned his moniker based on the respect he garnered from other Chicago blues artists. All the songs here were written by the respective artists, all of whom prove themselves to be solid song crafters and solid senders of the songs. Check out Mercer’s “Big Dog Blues,” or Santini’s “You Ruined Poor Me.” In songs like these, the blues shine on.