|Dave Thomas is another admirable guitarist who eschews flash for taste, and his fretwork spruces up the baker’s dozen songs on his new release, Road To The Blues, rather than becomes their only focus. To the contrary, he often generously allows the superlative piano work by James Goodwin to be front and center while he provides a classy backing along with drummer, bassman, percussionist, backing vocalist, arranger. co-producer and co-writer Steve Jinks.
This Road may be emotionally bumpy, but it’s never cluttered. Sprinkled judiciously throughout are organ, horns, and harp, and they are well served by the album’s crisp, clean sound. Attention to percussion always, understandably, takes a back seat to lead instruments or even a rhythm section, but as proven in these tracks, the right piece at the right place can subtly elevate a song significantly.
The shuffling title track is dominated by beautiful Johnnie Johnson-like piano tinkling, an immediate example of Thomas’ aforementioned willingness to let his virtuoso keyboard man shine and set much of the album’s collaborative tone. Julia Smalley, lyricist on four of the songs, including this one, essentially provides the album’s mission statement: “This life’s no bed of roses, more like a hard bed of nails/There’s only one highway to choose/I’m on my way to the blues.”
Goodwin’s knockout piano work, seasoned with understated but effective guitar stabs, are highlighted in “The Lady’s Not For Turning,” a literate pun on the Christopher Fry play The Lady’s Not For Burning. “Eye On the Money,” with its boogie rhythm and band-on-the-run theme, features sax by Phil Marshall, while “Another Girl” has a Ray Charles structure and ambience with its slow tempo and soulful piano.
A little travelin’ music would describe the next pair of tunes. “Everywhere Man,” again with Smalley lyrics, deals with life on the road: “Keep your porch light burning bright/Show the way ‘cos your everywhere man is coming home tonight,” and “Leaving San Francisco” addresses a failed love affair. Despite the lyric mentioning heading for the airport, Thomas’ irresistible rhythm work conjures up the sound of a train, a task usually relegated to a harp. Speaking of harp—Gareth Tucker’s–the interplay between it and piano brighten “Rose Tinted Love,” another track about a lost paramour, only this time with the abandoned shoe on the other foot.
Organ and—harking back to the point regarding percussion—tambourine make the bridge in the moody “Last Thing” (one of only two non-Thomas-Jinks originals) sparkle, much the same as the acoustic guitar provides another aural hue to “Pretty In Pink.” The strutting Big Easy feel to “Winnebago Dreaming” is followed by two more laments of a shattered relationship: the lazy, broken-hearted blues of “After All These Years” with its plaintive harp and “Natural State of Mind” with its crying slide guitar.
In a unique take on the Chuck Berry classic “Memphis Tennessee,” Thomas serves up a relaxed acoustic arrangement which closes the album and brings him and us to the end of his Road.
Dave Thomas is an internationally recognized blues musician – a singer, guitarist, songwriter, and band leader. He is truly coming into his best years yet after a lifetime devoted to the blues.
Dave’s musical journey began when he taught himself to play guitar and harmonica as a boy and he had his first band ‘Skid Row’ when he was twelve in Newport, South Wales. When he was eighteen, he was recruited by the seminal progressive rock band ‘Blonde On Blonde’ to be their new lead singer. After three years of recording and performing and with one single and three albums to their credit the band split up. Dave moved to London and joined Robin LeMesurier’s rock band ‘Reign.’ However, when it was announced that they were going to be ‘The Wombles’ Dave decided that it was time to get back to the blues!
Dave has never stopped performing, even when involved in a full-time career in advertising and marketing. He has been living in Norfolk for the past 25 years and between 2005 and 2015 he was the house band leader for Shake Down Blues in Castor, near Peterborough, where the promoter, Gerard Homan, brought some of the finest Black American blues musicians to play, many of whom have become friends and collaborators on various musical ventures. Dave visits the USA regularly, recording and performing with some of the living legends of traditional and contemporary blues. He has sung at the Chicago Blues Festival and in blues venues on the festival fringe. The city of Cleveland, Ohio, has honored him with an official citation for his services to the blues.
Dave’s 2021 blues album, One More Mile, has been in the Roots Music Charts for over a year, reaching Number 1 in the UK Chart, Number 4 in the USA Contemporary Blues Chart, Number 8 in the USA Blues Chart and Number 5 in Australia.
A fruitful collaboration between Dave and Dave Greenslade, another legend of prog rock, has resulted in an album called G&T which was issued on the Angel Air label in early March 2022. It’s all original work. The supporting musicians are all masters in their own right. The great blues singer Dana Gillespie guests on a couple of tracks with Bob Skeat on bass (Wishbone Ash) , Brendan O’Neill on drums (Rory Gallagher’s Taste) Aaron Liddard on trumpet (Amy Winehouse) all bringing something special to the mix.