Review: Dion gets distinguished help on rocking blues album

Dion, “Blues with Friends” (Keeping the Blues Alive Records)

“Blues with Friends” sets up rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Dion with a distinguished set of guitarists, from Joe Bonamassa to Bruce Springsteen, on an album teeming with talent and great tunes.

Dion has been putting out blues records for years and he tints some of these 14 originals with shades of rock, pop and country.

Jeff Beck’s typically lyrical playing complements the torment on “Can’t Start Over Again,” which Dion describes as a return to Memphis and has the makings of a standard, while Joe Louis Walker’s licks light a fire on “I Got Nothin’” under Dion and Van Morrison’s vocals.

Fellow New Yorker Brian Setzer struts on the six strings all over “Uptown Number 7” and Sonny Landreth elevates the good times on “I Got the Cure.”

“Song for Sam Cooke (Here In America),” a touching tune Dion started writing years ago based on his own Southern experiences with Cooke and revived after seeing “Green Book,” gets vocal support from Paul Simon.

Slide guitars from John Hammond and Rory Block, who also sings, underpin the drama of “Told You Once in August,” a story of infidelity that’s unlikely to end happily.

Other guitar guests include Billy Gibbons, Samantha Fish, Jimmy Vivino, Joe Menza and Steve Van Zandt.

There are two remakes — “Kickin’ Child,” the title track of Dion’s “lost album” recorded in 1965 but released in 2017, and “Hymn to Him,” from his 1986 gospel record “Velvet & Steel.” The latter has eerie backing vocals from Patti Scialfa and a guitar solo by her husband.

Sounding as soulful as ever at age 80, Dion’s talents on “Blues with Friends” are still running strong and in great company.

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