Jay Sewall is a Quebec City-based harmonica player, the first bluesman to play the Montreal International Jazz Festival, in 1983, and the recipient of the Lys Blues Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. With his seventh album, he’s celebrating 50 years of performing with songs he’s performed over the years but never recorded along with some vintage tunes from the archive.

Mike Goudreau helped out on guitar and production on the new songs but Sewall often expands his palette as a one-man band, his version of Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man” does just and does it very well. Chuck Berry’s “Reelin’ and Rockin’” should be credited as a co-write, Sewall paying tribute to the late rocker and nailing the groove. Goudreau’s guitar playing shows he learned his lessons well. Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” gets a rocking Zydeco treatment that makes it another highlight. Sewall’s own songs include a solo performance of “Quebec Blues”, a very fine lament for Bob Walsh and Gilles Sioui, two blues masters and mentors who passed away recently and to whom the album is dedicated. Another solo tour de force is a heart-felt version of “House Of The Rising Sun” – glorious harmonica. “Jay’s Boogie Woogie” is taken from 2009’s All Blues featuring Ken Whiteley.

“I’m A Bluesman” is an attractive Chicago Blues, apparently written while he lived in Chicago in the ‘70’s. It’s a full band recording from his first album, the long out of print Be Bop Beluga from 1984, as are a lovely instrumental version of “Summertime” and another original, the Hooker-styled “Got To Boogie”. He concludes the disc with two from the archives: a never-before-released original called “Motor City Blues” from his first recording session in Detroit. It’s a lengthy instrumental that shows how good he was even in 1978. “Blues In Chicago” tells the tale of a trip to the South Side in the early 70’s. The talking blues is a full band performance set to the tune of “Help Me” by Sonny Boy Williamson II and makes for fascinating listening and a happy ending. This is an attractive showcase for a master player, it’s available at Amazon, iTunes and record stores throughout Quebec. You can also check out www.facebook.com/officialjaysewall.

May 2018 - Dan McKinnon