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Eric Gales - 'Middle Of The Road' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/07/da/0e/Eric-Gales-Middle-Of-The-Road-25-1495910236.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     May 27, 2017    
 
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The set-up is dark but the payoff consistently uplifting.

There's a misconception amongst many less enlightened music lovers that the Blues is depressing. While a grain of truth resides in every lie, the genre actually addresses life's hardships as a means of sonic exorcism, purging the artist's torment so they can emerge positive and with renewed purpose; that is the written defence, but for its musical equivalent check out the latest record from this world class Memphis gunslinger. Eric Gales has always charted his personal struggles through music and, after a prison stint in 2009 for possession of a firearm and cocaine, that focus has only intensified.

'Middle Of The Road', the fifteenth effort of his career and latest chapter in what's clearly been a difficult recovery, finds Gales seemingly emerging from those battles and ready to live life to the full. The set-up is dark but the payoff consistently uplifting. Thudding Blues Rocker 'I've Been Deceived' and indignant 'Repetition', which features older brother Eugene and recalls Prince's 'Sign O' The Times', lay bare his crippling addictions, but mission statement 'Change In Me (The Rebirth)' is infectiously feel-good and 'Been So Long' is a heartfelt vow to stop self-sabotaging over Bob Marley-esque verses and a liqueur smooth chorus.

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Gales always draws from a wealth of styles, and 'Middle...' leans predominantly towards his more soulful side, fittingly allowing the songs craftsmanship, exquisite melodies and storytelling to take centre stage. He's also singing better than ever and, in combination with wife La Donna's heavenly backing vocals and Fabrizio Grossi's sparkling production, the songs' resplendent hooks and emotional power are magically brought to life. In spite of the less Rocking aesthetic, Gales' tonally scrumptious, Funky and fiery lyrical fret-work still mesmerises. 'Good Time' is a crisp ray of sunshine, 'Help Yourself' resembles early ZZ Top and 'Boogie Man' – a cucumber-cool Freddie King cover featuring a succulent six-string dialogue with fellow Blues moderniser Gary Clark Jr – highlights why Joe Bonamassa believes he's one of the greatest guitarists on the planet.

Eric Gales knows he's been claiming to have turned the corner for years, but says this time it's for real and he'll prove it. 'Middle Of The Road' would certainly seem to back up that boast. For both professional and personal reasons, let's hope it's a path he continues to tread for many years to come.

Simon Ramsey

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