Teenage blues god in waiting shows his potential
There are some things so obvious to say in reviews that however much you might not want to do clichés, you have no choice but to mention them. So here, we might as well get it said sooner rather than later.
Quinn Sullivan is 17 years old, and “Midnight Highway” is his third album. He started playing guitar at 3 and although his list of achievements would fill this page, the key one is this: Buddy Guy let him play his treasured Lucille guitar.
There, with that out of the way, we can get down to discussing whether “….Highway” his first album for Mascot (the home of Joe Bonamassa) is any good or not.
Answer: most definitely yes.
There are a total – including bonus cuts – of 13 songs here and each one in its own way tells you about not just where Sullivan has been but also where he’s at, and crucially, where he’s headed.
By his own admission, eager to stretch out with this record, a cast of plenty was assembled which included bassists Michael Rhodes and Tom Macdonald, guitarist Rob McNelley, and keyboard player Reese Wynans, a veteran of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble. This was all corralled together by award winning producer Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy) who also drums here.
Each song, whether it’s the bar-room strut of opener “Something For Me”, or “Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming” – a glorious little summery love song with genuine crossover potential – is brilliantly put together and showcases a talent that can basically do whatever he chooses to in future years.
The title track is reminiscent of The Stones at their most laid back, and the fact it is followed by “Crazy Into You” which wouldn’t have been out of place on the first Maroon 5 record, is an adequate explanation of where Sullivan probably is right now. He’s rooted in the blues, but he doesn’t want the blues to define him.
The one thing he’s not yet is a songwriter – with a hand in just three of the tracks – although one of these “Eyes For You” is a genuine highlight and it is worth remembering that it is only in his last couple of albums that Joe Bonamassa even has felt confident enough to write his own material in any great amount.
Only snobbery suggests that you have to write your own anyway – its not like it did Elvis any harm to use outside writers did it? – only that the songs are good, and when they are like the Bad Company stylings of “She Gets Me” they most certainly are.
“Going” – another of the self-penned ones – is almost folk in its intent and his cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is not a copy either.
In between all this, there are a couple of mighty fine instrumentals. “Big Sky” stretches out to be as widescreen as its title suggests, while “Buffalo Nickel” is shot through with a rare quality.
The bonus tracks (“…Sky” is one) augment the record too. “Rocks” shakes and “Graveyard Stone” is funky as you like and both are hints at just how varied Sullivan will surely become.
Just as the cliché said you almost have to talk about his age, then then the idea that you have to then proclaim him as “The New….” Whatever, goes hand in hand. We’ll not do that, instead we’ll confidently make a prediction instead: In 10 years’ time (you know when the star here the ripe old age of 27…..) some young kid will come along and the review will call that young artist the next Quinn Sullivan.