Chris Rea Dancing Down the Stony Road

After some 21 albums, Chris Rea has found himself more recognised for his pop-rock successes than for his love of the blues and, in particular, the slide guitar. This double-disc — on his own label — is here to set the record straight. His first exposure to Charley Patton is celebrated here, in the aftermath of Rea’s life-threatening bout of pancreatic cancer. Touted as a journey into his deep-rooted love of Delta blues and gospel influences, Stony Road remains a typical Chris Rea project of all-original tracks built around his inimitable rough growl of a voice (sounding as if it’s housed in a bottle of cheap scotch), coupled with his raw and authentic-sounding slide guitar. Both slide and vocals are front and centre and, in that sense, Stony Road is loyal to the true Delta tradition. Rea’s guitar cries with the same otherworldly, emotional intensity that originally drew him to Patton’s stylings while his vocals wrap each composition like a well-worn glove. Yet Rea is hardly John Hurt or Skip James and, as the disc adds its rootsy blend of many instruments (piano, harmonica, accordion and banjo with bass, guitar and drums), it retreats from the purity of the genre. Rea’s definition of the Delta is somewhat skin-deep. Despite his best efforts, Chris Rea simply sounds like Chris Rea. But, in this case, that’s a good thing. And as he’d likely tell you himself, Dancing Down the Stony Road sure beats being buried underneath it. (Jazzee Blue)