ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 20, 2009
By Steve Newton
George Thorogood has made a good living covering crusty old gems by blues legends, but is that something we should hold against him? I think not. Every rock-loving kid that Thorogood turns on to someone like John Lee Hooker via his hellraising rendition of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” could end up garnering a lifetime appreciation for the blues.
And besides, as long as the Delaware Destroyer is busy remaking blues classics, he won’t have time to come up with original crap like his hokey 1993 single “Get a Haircut”.
The idea behind The Dirty Dozen was for Thorogood to combine six new studio recordings with six “fan favourites” from the past, and he acquits himself well on both counts. It helps that the rhythm section of drummer Jeff Simon and bassist Bill Blough has been with him for more than 30 years, and that they’re tighter than fuck.
The guitar playing of the more recently recruited Jim Suhler is top-notch all the way, and when you finish it all off with the wailing saxes of current Destroyer Buddy Leach and former Destroyer Hank Carter, you’ve got a combo that brings the blues-rock dynamite in both hands.
Willie Dixon’s “Tail Dragger” kicks off the batch of new tracks with a bang. “I’m a tail dragger/I wipe out my tracks,” croons Thorogood in his bad-to-the-bone persona, “Well I get what I want and I don’t come sneakin’ back.” Suhler’s two solos light the tune up nicely, the first signing off with one of those supercool little end runs.
Also impressive is the slide-driven boogie version of Muddy Waters’s “Born Lover”, the unruly vibe of which suits Thorogood’s boisterous vocals to a T. The vibrancy of his singing hasn’t diminished a bit since his breakthrough Move It on Over LP of ’78.
The repetitive “Twenty Dollar Gig” takes the enjoyment level down a notch, but the album picks up again with “Let Me Pass”, a road-burning anthem by Bo Diddley that owes plenty to Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline”. Berry himself gets the revamp treatment on Thorogood’s 1991 fan favourite “Hello Little Girl”.
Other highlights from the 58-year-old rocker’s back catalogue include his 1993 version of the Willie Dixon/Howlin’ Wolf collaboration “Howlin’ for My Baby”—which sounds like a sax-driven assault on ZZ Top’s “La Grange”—and his takes on the travelling tunes “Blue Highway” (1982) and “Six Days on the Road” (1991).
Too bad he didn’t stick Jerry Reed’s beloved trucker anthem “Eastbound and Down” on there as well. Maybe it wasn’t in the right key.