Marvel not at his age but at his legacy. From his hearty catalogue of 37 studio and 34 live releases (many defining the very heart and soul of British blues), Mayall remains the last of his kind and the great grandfather of this time-honoured genre. Regardless of whether you appreciate his reedy voice, his flash-free harmonica and his endless ability to reinvent himself, his seminal Bluesbreakers birthed some of the greatest guitarists of our time. Mayall’s stamp of approval meant everything – and still does. Case in point, The Sun Is Shining Down is a showcase of established and/or up-and-coming guitarists. A stickler for adherence to standard blues forms (Mayall resented the godfather title, as his choice for the British Blues crown were heroes, Cyril Davis and Alexis Korner), to graduate from the Mayall school became a springboard to success for many players.

More bandleader than actual virtuoso on any of his chosen instruments, Mayall nevertheless delivers the blues every time, surrounded by hand-picked bandmates while coaxing the best out of them. He still does. His current band of Greg Rzab (bass), Jay Davenport (drums) and Carolyn Wonderland (rhythm/lead guitar) takes a slight backseat to featured artists on each song. Standout tracks include “Can’t Take No More”, unleashing Marcus King’s soulful sting, supplemented by a slick horn section (Ron Dzibla, sax; Mark Pender, trumpet; Richard Rosenberg, trombone) and both Mayall-original tracks accompanied by Scarlett Rivera’s still-sultry violin (“Got To Find A Better Way” and “Deep Blue Sea”. Understandably, Mayall’s voice is hit-and-miss, strength-wise, falling short on occasion (Bobby Rush’s “I’m As Good As Gone” – supplemented by effects –  and the upbeat, but otherwise lacklustre take on Bernard Allison’s “Chills and Thrills”, despite Mike Campbell’s contribution). The back-to-basics strength of his own band on Tinsley Ellis’ “A Quitter Never Wins” hits a strong note, with Mayall’s harp and B3 more than compensating on a less-than-robust vocal. Roosevelt Sykes’ “Driving Wheel” gets a significant boost from Mississippi-born guitarist, Melvin Taylor’s jazz-inflected Chicago blues guitar, bolstered by strong horns and Eric Corne’s rhythm guitar – seemingly taking the pressure off Mayall to weave his patented spell. The title track grants Wonderland her due in the spotlight, elegantly so. 

All-in-all, Mayall continues to retain his distinctive sound, delivering his still-distinctive version of the blues, following a lifelong crusade to turn music fans onto the joy of the blues. His age has very little to do with it. Long may he reign. (Eric Thom)