Instead of listing all of the acts and albums that have featured Billy Flynn’s work, it might be easier to list the few acts that he hasn’t played with. Flynn has been an in-demand guitarist since the mid-1970’s and has worked with a number of greats while fronting his own band.
It’s been a number of years since his last album, so when Lonesome Highway was announced as a release on Delmark, there was some excitement regarding it. I was delighted to hear that he was coming out with a new album and looked forward to checking it out as soon as possible.
Flynn has put together an impressive line-up of musicians that include him on vocals, guitar, harmonica, and percussion; Roosevelt Purifoy on piano, organ, and Rhodes; E.G. McDaniel on bass; and Andrew “Blaze” Thomas on drums. Other musicians include Doug Corcoran on trumpet; Christopher Neal on tenor sax; Dave Katzman on rhythm guitar on The Lucky Kind; and Deitra Farr lent her vocals on two songs. Billy Flynn, Dick Shurman, and Steve Wagner added backing vocals on Christmas Blues.
Flynn handled most of the songwriting, penning 16 of 17 songs on the album.
There’s some good rocking blues that opens the album. Good Navigator swings and pulls you into this high-energy disc. If you like a little boogie with your blues, then you’ll be thrilled by this song. It’s fun, light, and a great way to kick it off.
Flynn follows up with If It Wasn’t For The Blues, a slower straight blues number that is a great song for any blues lover. I know this one will be getting some serious air play on Time For The Blues, along with all of the major blues shows around the country. Purifoy’s piano work really ties the song together and gives it a cool honkytonk feel.
Next is Small Town, in which Flynn really makes his guitar sing. It’s a quiet, introspective track, which I tend to enjoy. It tells a more personal story and Flynn turns it into a very nice piece complete with a strong harp break.
The title track, Lonesome Highway, is next. The opening is a blistering Chicago style attack complete with a strong horn section. So far, the album is living up to all expectations. Flynn is in good form vocally and he’s always been one of the best on guitar. This one is a favorite.
The only song on the album is the first of two instrumentals, The “In” Crowd. Written by William Paige II, it’s a hard-driving number that plays heavily off of Flynn’s guitar and Purifoy’s keys. Thomas’ drums get a real workout as well.
Never Had A Chance starts off with a little funk. The horns give it a bit of a reggae feel as well, but the lyrics are pure blues. It’s a solid number and Flynn’s break is very good.
Next up is one of my favorite songs on the album, Waiting Game. It’s a good honkytonk number that has got to be a great song when done live. There’s a lot of fun here. Some good harp work kicks off the next song, Hold On. Deitra Farr’s harmony vocals adds a new dimension to the song.
There’s some good guitar work at the beginning of The Lucky Kind. This is a song with great blues lyrics and Flynn’s lead guitar is augmented by Katzman’s rhythm guitar. It’s a solid mix and the horns add a touch of the dramatic to the song. In fact, the whole thing was a kind of Carlos Santana vibe.
Jackson Street has some steel guitar that gives the song a different feel. Purifoy’s piano adds some spice as well. It’s got an old-school sound that should satisfy just about any blues lover.
He follows that with Long Long Time. It’s a fun boogie tinged number that has got to rock a live audience. Gotta love Purifoy’s piano break as this is a guy who can grab the spotlight and keep it. Along with the previous song, these are the kind of numbers that will keep the blues fans coming back for more.
There’s more Chicago sound with The Right Track. The horns just add so much to the album. It’s an uplifting soul sound more than blues. So, make the most of it and move what you got.
You can’t go wrong with the harp attack that opens You Are My Lover. Musically, this is a dynamite song. I’m not as crazy about the lyrics as I would like, but they’re still good. But that guitar, that harp, and those keys all make this song stronger.
The next song, I Feel ‘Um, starts out low and slow before the sax kicks in and takes it in a different, jazzy direction. It’s a different sound for Flynn, and Purifoy has switched to an electric piano to give the song a more intimate feel. I like this one a lot.
The second instrumental, Blues Express, has more of that great Chicago style blues. The addition of the singer shouting “Hey” gives the song the feeling of an anthem. What can I tell you? It rocks, and rocks hard!
Now, Sufferin’ With The Blues, is one of the coolest songs on the album. I love its slow but intense approach and this one just might be my favorite. I can guarantee you that it will be making an appearance on the show soon. Flynn’s vocals are emotional and his guitar cries.
He closes with a song I promise you that you will be hearing come December, Christmas Blues. It’s a welcome addition to the songs we will be sharing during the season.
Several times during this review I pointed out the Chicago-style Flynn uses. I wouldn’t really expect anything different as he hails from Wisconsin, only two states away, but only a three-hour drive. Flynn has worked the Chicago clubs since he was a teenager and still spends a lot of time in the Windy City.
Lonesome Highway is a very strong album, and one that should have a place in any blues lover’s collection. I know that I am very impressed with the work he’s done here and can’t wait to share it. If you can’t wait to get a copy, check out his website https://www.billyflynn.com/ for all the details and be sure to check his itinerary to see where you can catch him.