Doug MacLeod

A Soul To Claim

Doug MacLeod’s A Soul To Claim, like many of his 21 previous albums, makes it clear that he’s an archetype of the top-level blues storyteller: wry, sharp-witted, virile, inclined to poke fun at sentiment.

This time in the studio, MacLeod spins his tales with the help of acclaimed producer Jim Gaines, who backs MacLeod’s lived-in singing voice and stirring guitar work on half the program with a soundscape crafted by first-call Memphis soul-blues musicians.

Old pro MacLeod bestows his music with a human intimacy that’s a function of his affable personality and the original material he works with. With natural authority and charisma, he communicates one-on-one with listeners. “Only Porter At The Station,” one of six solo performances, finds him generating tension between stoical self-interest and caring about someone who carries excess baggage. Alone again for “Dodge City,” MacLeod gives good swift kicks to the backsides of rancid politicians. (In his younger years, he was even more irritated — hear “Whose Truth, Whose Lies?” on his 2000 album of the same name.)

A former Navy sailor of strong moral purpose, MacLeod performs a tune about homeless veterans called “Where Are You?” in an emotional tone of mingled sadness and compassion. Rick Steff’s organ solo and the gentle lilt of bass and drums provide an approximation of his state of feeling. Several more tunes lie just as snugly in the sage’s lap.

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