Through blues, jazz, rock and a myriad of cross-cultural touches in his music, Steve Tallis has long steered his own course, a slave to his own muse only. Interestingly, by sticking to his own path he has arrived at a point on his new LP, The First Degree, where he is possibly making his most popularly accessible music in a long time. ‘Blues From The Maylands Delta’ is still his mission statement, but this music could come from anywhere in the world, from Peninsula Avenue to Tallis’ other home in Paris, to any blues bayou one could reference.
A Promise Is A Cloud is something of a centrepiece here, an assured song so universal it could become an FM radio staple. It’s followed by Silence In The House Of God, a rally against the evils in the world (‘hypocrites, racists, paedophiles’) that Tallis has witnessed the world over.
The mood can be playful also, Athena BooBoo is as dark as can be, but is lustful and lascivious, in the realm of the old bluesmen (while citing Tallis own’ past, alluding to his late ’60s outfit, The Jellyroll Bakers). The title track is deep in dub, while Speak Of The Devil recalls Edwyn Collins’ Never Met A Girl Like You Before but has an intent all its own. Throughout, Tallis’ guitar feels like it can move earth and sea, with Evan Jenkins (drums) and Skip McDonald (bass) providing astute backing to his ever-shamanistic drive.
Then (zen) and now, the real deal.