By Devon Wendell
Blues master Buddy Guy encountered the now 14 year old Quinn Sullivan six years ago after Guy invited the young Sullivan to sit in with him. And he’s mentored this budding electric six stringer ever since.
Sullivan’s sophomore CD Getting There is an appropriate title for Sullivan’s blistering blues oriented rock-pop.
There’s no doubt that Sullivan is wise beyond his years in his skills as a blues/rock guitarist, but the overproduction on this release often distracts from the first half of the album.
Tracks like “Checkin’ Out,”, “Catch A Groove” and the schmaltzy ballad “World In Change” are marred with cliched psychedelic rock vocal effects, hooks and overindulgent guitar pyrotechnics that have little to do with real blues and more to do with baby- boom era, blues-inspired “classic” rock. The exceptions are the title track “Getting There” and portions of “Mr. Gloom,” in which Sullivan delivers some no nonsense, Buddy Guy inspired blues playing. With that being said, there is an unmistaken sense of rollicking fun on the album. “Rock Hard” is a good example of this. Sullivan (with help from producer Tom Hambridge) doesn’t sound like he takes himself too seriously, which is a plus.
It may serve Sullivan better that he hasn’t tried to make a pure blues album with all of the false posturing and fake vocal affectations that someone like Eric Clapton (more than 4 times Sullivan’s age) has been doing for almost half a century. The music on Getting There is more age and culturally appropriate for Sullivan than trying to come off sounding like Muddy Waters or B.B. King.
Sullivan’s high, prepubescent vocals don’t match the maturity of his wailing Strat guitar runs (which may be off-putting at first listen) but the command and confidence of his vocal delivery makes up for that.
“Like Your Love” and “End Of The Day” are Sullivan’s finest vocal performances on the album. There’s a fun, mid-60s Beatles feel to these tracks.
The surfer-esque rock instrumental “Cyclone” is the highlight of the album with brilliant piano work by Jefferson Jarvis. Here, Sullivan sticks to the song’s motif and thematic qualities without playing one or two bars and then diving into an endless solo that goes nowhere. This instrumental brings to mind the late great Texas guitar master Danny Gatton.
Sullivan tells his story as a young guitar phenom who’s already experienced more than the average Joe on the Southern rocker “Things I Won’t Forget.” There’s a youthful sweetness to Sullivan’s early felt nostalgia on this song.
The album closes with a bonus track of Sullivan performing Eric Clapton’s “Got To Get Better In A Little While” live at Buddy Guy’s “Legends” club in Chicago with Buddy’s band (Marty Sammons, keys and backing vocals, Orlando Wright,bass and Rick Hall, guitar) with the addition of Tom Hambridge on drums.
Sullivan sounds frighteningly close to Clapton in tone but he has a rawness and technique that Clapton’s never had.
Although Getting There isn’t for the blues purist, it shows the world this young man’s amazing talents as a fiery blues tinged guitarist and singer who can successfully incorporate blues and rock into a fun-filled pop idiom. Quinn Sullivan is definitely someone to keep your eyes and ears on.
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