Dion, "New York Is My Home" (Instant Records)
Dion extends his stay in the blues neighborhood on "New York Is My Home," a style that comes naturally to the doo-wop legend.
Paul Simon guests on the title track, insistent percussion driving the folksy tune in which the NYC natives share their love for the city, its bustle providing companionship and allowing them to "touch the world as it sails in from everywhere." A splendid American tune.
On "The Apollo King," Dion pays tribute to Big Al Sears, a tenor saxophonist in Duke Ellington's orchestra. "Visionary Heart" imagines a letter to Dion from Buddy Holly — they were touring together when Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens were killed in a 1959 plane crash, "the day the music died."
Dion returns to the source with Lightning Hopkins' "Katie Mae" and Tampa Red's "I Ain't For It" and though his first two blues albums from around a decade ago were mostly covers, originals like the terrific opener "Aces Up Your Sleeve" and "I'm Your Gangster of Love" are no less authentic.
Producer Jimmy Vivino and members of the Basic Cable Band — Conan O'Brien's house band — provide gritty backing, Vivino's guitar especially hot.
New York may not be the foremost blues city, but Dion — whose pliable vocals even at age 76 give each song its own tone and flair — bears witness that Beale Street has a kindred spirit on the Bronx's Fordham Road.