Various Artists, "Strange Angels: In Flight With Elmore James" (Sylvan Songs)
Elmore James has been dead 54 years, and the blues aren't doing too well either. This lively tribute album gives both a boost.
The fan base for the kind of music James performed may be shrinking, but the parade of talent on "Strange Angels" shows there's still a lot of love for the blues among contemporary musicians.
Singers who contribute rousing renditions of James' material include Rodney Crowell, Shelby Lynne, Allison Moorer and Tom Jones, whose Welsh version of urban blues on "Done Somebody Wrong" is an improbable highlight.
But the stars are the guitarists channeling James' influential slide work. They're led by Doug Lancio, who leaves no need for words on the instrumental "Bobby's Rock" and the near-instrumental "Hawaiian Boogie."
Warren Haynes, Billy Gibbons and Duke Levine also wield a mean bottleneck, and the wise decision to record the album in mono somehow makes their guitars sound even more monstrous.
The set is being released to coincide with James' 100th birthday, and the inclusion of studio chatter reinforces the party mood.
James can rest in peace, because his music lives.