Album review, Neon Highway Blues, Gary Hoey, Rock and Blues Muse

By Mike O’Cull

Gary Hoey is one of the most insanely talented guitarists, singer-songwriters working today. Hoey has spent the last thirty years carving himself out a career as a shred/stunt/amazing player and composer. Simply put: he can play anything. Hoey’s latest release, Neon Highway Blues out March 15, 2019 (Provogue/Mascot Label Group) finds him diving deeply into blues and blues/rock sounds without losing his strong, original voice on his instrument or doing a paint-by-numbers retelling of his record collection. This personal authenticity makes Neon Highway Blues a highly-enjoyable set of music that will appeal to most fans of high-end guitar slinging. He also hosts some truly special guests that contribute a lot of fire to these tunes, such as Eric Gales, Lance Lopez, Josh Smith and Hoey’s own teenage son, Ian Hoey.

Gary Hoey  shares, “I really wanted to make sure this album had a lot of Blues on it. I kept sticking to the Blues and listening to the classic players, all the Kings, Albert King, Freddie King, BB King, and finish with some Burger King (laughing)…tried to get that to be a focus of this record — and still put some songs for that my long-time, die-hard fans expect; instrumentals and some rockin’ Zeppelin type stuff. There’s definitely a variety here.”

Hoey tracked Neon Highway Blues in his home studio while maintaining his typically hectic touring schedule and it feels like one of love’s labors. The tracks have that great, live-band feel we all dig and it’s a treat hearing Hoey rip in such a gritty and Earth-bound setting. The first cut, “Under The Rug,” is a supercharged funk/rock workout featuring the supremely talented Eric Gales getting down with Hoey that’s everything modern blues should be: energetic, innovative, and loaded with talent. Combined with Hoey’s smokin’ vocals, this track is a standout.

“Your Kind Of Love” is the kind of upbeat shuffle that fills roadhouse dancefloors and shows Hoey turning in some absolutely Epicurean Elmore/Allman-inspired slide playing. He has a nice touch with the bottleneck of which the old masters would certainly approve. “Don’t Come Crying” is a cool mid-tempo blues with a tasty chromatic bassline and features 17-year-old Ian Hoey, already a skilled guitarist in his own right, dealing out licks right next to his dad. It’s hard to tell when one Hoey stops playing and the other starts, a fact that should make both of them proud. Other highlights here include “Damned If I Do” (feat. Lance Lopez) and the gorgeous  “Almost Heaven.”

The album closes with the title track “Neon Highway Blues.” It’s a gentle, blues-influenced instrumental ballad that again presents Hoey on slide guitar, albeit with a much more delicate feel than on earlier selections. It winds the record down on a peaceful and positive note and makes you want to listen close to catch every nuance.

With a collection of 21 albums, it’s no wonder that Gary Hoey is listed as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time.

Gary Hoey has created yet another winner with Neon Highway Blues and sounds as good or better than he ever has. He’s one of those players with chops to burn who also has the rare gift of restraint. Hoey is always memorable and entertaining who never overplays or loses sight of a track’s big picture. This puts him near the top of the heap on an instrument that many others play as if it were a purely athletic pursuit. If you’ve enjoyed Hoey in the past, you’ll like this record, too. If he’s a new face to you, crank this set up and get ready for a good time hanging out with your next guitar hero. Good stuff.

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