This gifted guitarist gives us powerful, aching blues with shades of Hendrix, Kossoff and Gary Moore.

Label: Jazzhaus
Time: 9 tracks / 43 mins

Emotion cascades out in torrents as soon as this album begins. Over a Hendrix-like undercurrent, the angst-laden top line of guitar responds to every phrase that Bryant sings in “Tired of Trying,” which is actually inspired by (and dedicated to) his friend and mentor Walter Trout.

There’s more Hendrix influence in the backing to the title track, which you could sing “All Along the Watchtower” over.  

The pain in Bryant’s lyrics is heartfelt. His last album reflected the loss of his father and a close friend in a short space of time. It is as if that has bled through into the songs he has written here. “Time don’t heal,” he claims on the acoustic centrepiece “Skin and Bone,” about his father wasting away at the end of his life, as some short bursts of guitar punctuate the unplugged mood. Music is Bryant’s means of escape.

Another – the poignant ballad “Where the River Ends” – was written to a friend, whose daughter had just died. It is a song with little hope, as in the title track, where he sadly claims that he has been praying “to a God I know ain’t listening to a single word I say; all hope is gone.” If only he knew. The ballad begins with a quiet piano intro, but as the track progresses, the electric elements come in and add visceral power.

But it is not all grief. This is pure blues, so there are plenty of tropes to fulfil, like the cartoon woman troubles of “Warning Signs” and the simple fun of “Nine Lives”’ Texas blues.

His band offers a strong support, with a dependable rhythm section and some keys that let Bryant shine, but add several beautifully-toned solos on both piano and organ (with shades of Jon Lord). What’s more, he has use of a big band, whose understated horns add guts to tracks like the superb “Too Far Gone,” where his guitar work shows echoes of Gary Moore. (There are too many excellent solos on this collection to mention and also some are reminiscent of Paul Kossoff in their tone and the way that their phrasing can pierce the heart.)

It amazes me that after a double-digit tally of albums, this is the first time that he has played slide guitar, which he does with fluid ease on “Hurting Time,” before the disc ends with the lovely, lyrical instrumental "Mya."

There is no bad track on this album, which enjoys a wonderful mix by Eddie Spear, balancing all the players to create a solid, gutsy sound that carries some fine songs. Bryant aimed for a live feel here, and what impresses me is not so much the sound of a live show, but the emotion, which is far harder to recreate in the studio.

His vocals vary from gritty to sounding a little forced, but any losses in that department are more than made up for by the eloquence of his guitar work. Any blues lover should really relish this.

Derek Walker