Album review, Live at the 805, Alastair Greene, Rock and Blues Muse

By Dave Resto

Southern California based and world renowned blues-rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Alastair Greene, has just released Live from the 805 through Rip Cat Records. Produced by Greene and Sean McCue, the two-disc, twenty-song set was recorded during a live performance in his native Santa Barbara, CA (area code 805) in March of 2018.

Greene is the grandson of the late jazz trumpeter Chico Alvarez, who inspired Greene to pursue a career in music. One of the many highlights of that career has been Greene’s work as lead guitarist with legendary producer, engineer and musician Alan Parsons. He’s also enjoyed great success with his own project, the Alastair Greene Band. With Live from the 805, Greene’s seventh album, he celebrates his twentieth year in the music industry.

The show opens with “The Sweetest Honey” from his 2014 album Trouble Out Your Door. We hear the audience come alive with cheers and applause as Greene and his bandmates – bassist and backing harmony vocalist, Jim Rankin and drummer, Austin Beede – take the stage. With a sharp double-crack of the snare drum, they launch into the fast and furious intro/outro riff which is squarely rooted in the blues but inarguably powered by rock. As with his guitar playing, Greene’s singing likewise lives in the world he establishes on the border of both genres. From the first notes of his guitar solo, he captures the sound and feel of Eric Clapton’s performance on Cream’s “Crossroads.”

Two other songs from Trouble Out Your Door which appear on this live set, “Red Wine Woman” and “Back Where I Belong” are excellent examples of Greene’s superb finger-picking skills. He’s adept at concurrently playing while mimicking his vocal line or playing a counter melody against it. Although the finest illustration of this skill is probably “Big Bad Wolf” from 2017’s Dream Train, where he uses this technique during both the verses and the choruses.

Greene proves that he can extricate the rock element from his playing and demonstrate genuine blues chops on songs like “Three Bullets” and “Love So Strong” (each found on 2001’s A Little Wiser). Both songs are authentic blues shuffles; both feature some down and dirty blues guitar soloing.

Greene is appreciative of his band mates and other musician friends who help him to shine, and he affords them time in the spotlight as well. Jim Rankin owns the intro to “T’other Way,” where his tasteful and evenly spaced bass chording gives this song a character that is unique and separate from any other song in this collection. A reworked cover of “Big Boss Man” by Jimmy Reed gets a funky drum break coming out of the chaotic guitar solo, thanks to Austin Beede. According to Greene when describing their version of the song, “…it’s definitely more on the jam band side of things.” Chris Chalk, a long-time friend and former bandmate of Greene from years gone by, tears it up as the guest vocalist on the rocker “First Born Son.”

The last song, “Walking in Circles” is the title track from Greene’s 2009 release. Borrowing the signature riff and shuffle groove from “Dust My Broom” by Elmore James, it’s a raucous, show-stopping finale. It offers one final blast of Greene’s expert slide guitar work. Then he calls out his bandmates over the ending notes and thanks his audience.

During a live video chat on his Facebook fan page to celebrate the album’s release, Greene thanked his many loyal fans for the strong pre-release sales of Live from the 805. It’s a sure bet that those sales will continue to rise, as more people hear his music on blues radio stations or see his performance videos on the Internet and decide to hop on board the Alastair Greene blues-rock express.

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