Back in May 2016 Melissa McClelland & Luke Doucet, the Hamilton duo who call themselves Whitehorse, released Vol. 1. It became one of the nominees for the Blues JUNO last year. They had already won a JUNO for Leave No Bridge Unburned. Vol. 2 may well do the same or even better next year. On both EPs, they combine their alt-rock (and laptop) sensibility with a deep understanding of the importance of the blues along with their very contemporary music, in each case adding new insights to the selected blues classics. Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talkin’” leads off with electronic keyboards carrying the distinctive tune and with unison vocals, Doucet’s White Falcon guitar solos paying tribute to Hubert Sumlin. Jimmy Reed’s “Baby, What You Want Me to Do” has the same easy-going unison vocals over keyboards and the contrast with Doucet’s overamped guitar solo is even more striking here. Son House’s “John the Revelator” begins with gently picked guitar over heavy percussion before falsetto unison vocals begin. They thought that this end-of-times biblical story could use some updating, so there are new verses on ‘global warming, President Trump and religion itself’. The verses build nicely before the guitar picking returns to take us out – a highlight for sure. Slim Harpo’s “Scratch My Back” opens with a marvelous harp solo from Doucet before we get McClelland’s processed, down-in-the alley vocal – this invitation would be very hard to resist. They nail the loping rhythm. Willie Dixon’s “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” has never sounded so direct, Doucet and McClelland trade lines with equal abandon over his heavily-distorted guitar lines. “St. James Infirmary” gets unison, straightforward vocals over a guitar ‘noisescape’ (played by McClelland on Doucet’s guitar), a banjo and percussion. Blues Top 40 hits of the fifties updated the Whitehorse way. Melissa McClelland is a very good blues singer and I hope one day she gets to be a part of the Women’s Blues Revue. Whitehorse have a very big fan base and this album should serve as an excellent introduction to blues for them. The release date is January 11 and their web site, www.whitehorsemusic.ca, shows them in Whitehorse next month.

January 2019 - Eric Schenkman
Top Blues - January 2019