What does it sound like?:
This is studio album number eight for Aynsley Lister – no small achievement given the relative lack of interest in blues music in the UK; his first album came out 20 years ago. Lister earned a reputation whilst still a teenager as a handy blues guitarist, self-releasing two albums of covers that showed he had chops as good as Gallagher and SRV. The albums got him a deal with Ruf Records and in turn onto tours with Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, John Mayall and Delbert McClinton.
The release of “Equilibrium” in 2009 saw a shift – he dialed down his inner Bonamassa and found a more soulful, jazz tinged groove which was also evident on 2013’s “Home”. Part of the change of direction came from adding a full time keyboard player, giving Lister a chance to record music where lyrics and melody could take center stage and the guitar didn’t have to do all the heavy lifting.
Whilst the vibe continues, “Eyes Wide Open” is more guitar centric than anything he’s previously released with a four-piece band. There’s still plenty of smoky atmospherics, but Lister has brought back some punchy guitar to add some grit. Opening track “All Of Your Love” sets the tone with a rumbling bass and shimmering guitar driving along what starts as shuffle before breaking down into an out and out rocker. He returns to his blue roots on “Everything I Have To Give”, making me think this is what Robert Cray would sound like with more spit and less polish.
“Won’t Be Taken Down” and “Other Part Of Me” are ballads that verge on ordinary but both are lifted by some roaring riffs and tumultuous solos whilst “Time” and “Disheveled” are fine melancholy guitar blues that also showcase Lister’s vocal talent. The stand out track is the haunting “Il Grand Mafioso” which has a severely catchy chorus and more reverb than Chris Isaak guesting in an episode of Twin Peaks.
All in all I think this is Lister’s best album to date. The new album has a lot in common with “Home” and “Equilibrium” but in putting his guitar back front and center this feels more rounded and complete.
What does it all *mean*?
There’s hope for the blues yet
Goes well with…
A late night glass of red
Might suit people who like…
Joe Bonamassa, Walter Trout, Robert Cray, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Chris Duarte, Eric Johnson