Andrew Alli- Hard Workin’ Man review

Andrew Alli Hard Workin’ Man EllerSoul Records

Having spent time immersing himself in the music of those who have inspired him—Big Walter Horton, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter—Richmond, Virginia harmonica player Andrew Alli unleashed his debut album this spring.

Hard Workin’ Man is a refreshing album, for any number of reasons.

Alli has a fine voice, rich and lively. He isn’t a belter, but rather uses his tenor to shape his songs—most are originals—to appeal to those appreciating the Piedmont-style of blues: honest and unadorned. The production and engineering choices provide a bit of that ‘hollow’ sound of vintage recordings: instruments aren’t stacked atop each other until there remains no breathing room. Rather, there is a sparseness to the recording, providing a pleasing atmosphere for these traditional-sounding blues.

Alli demonstrates a variety of approaches with strong harp fills and breaks, and on songs like “30 Long Years,” “Going Down South,” and “So Long” he leads his band in a manner complementary to his vocal and instrumental choices. Subtly, Alli reveals his appreciation of the history of the blues, laying in bits that echo the past while showing that the blues continues to live and evolve.

Guitarist and bassist Jon Atkinson (who also did the engineering, mixing, and mastering of the album) impressively shows his flair throughout, but notably on “Good Things” and “AA Boogie.”

A few covers are included. Takes of Little Walter’s “One More Chance” and Big Walter’s “Walter’s Sun” are remarkably interesting. The originals “Texas Woman” and “Easy Going Man” are additional highlights, with the title track perhaps being the album’s most appealing number. All in all, Hard Workin’ Man reveals a front porch approach that this listener regularly enjoys; that ‘raw fat tone,’ indeed!

We may not have heard of Andrew Alli prior to receiving Hard Workin’ Man, but we’ll be keeping our ears attuned for more. This is a most impressive debut release.

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