Eric Gales


Self-fascinated Eric Gales presumes to preside over blues America as monarch. It’s not so fanciful. With personal demons vanquished, he is delivering on the promise shown over the decades since he was considered a teenage guitar prodigy.

For the new album cum coronation, Gales secured the services of a four-man royal court; his longtime friend Joe Bonamassa co-produced with Josh Smith and wrote tunes with Gales, Keb’ Mo’ and Tom Hambridge. With better-than-average material and production, Gales — skillfully, and with superb assurance — unleashes his trademark high intensity. But never before in the studio has the guitarist been this impressive without showiness. Moreover, he now has his longtime Hendrix infatuation under control — “Too Close To The Fire” is unremitting in its appeal. On “I Want My Crown,” rival Bonamassa grabs his guitar and does friendly battle with Gales — call it a draw.

Sometimes Gales can be a wonder of restraint, as on “I Found Her,” a heartfelt thank you to his wife, LaDonna, for helping him weather bad times; the performance inevitably culminates in guitar explosions that are empathic declarations of personal revival.

Gales’ jeweled headpiece has spots of tarnish: His singing isn’t consistently strong, and his lyrics about being a Black man in a roiled country aren’t always incisive. Histrionic background singers do Buddy Guy’s presumptive successor no favors.

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