- The Rolling Stones won just their 3rd Grammy, for “Blue & Lonesome.”
- It’s a back-to-their-roots album that consists entirely of blues covers.
- The Stones got their start as a great blues band.
The Rolling Stones, in the estimation of countless fans and critics, not to mention fellow musicians, are the greatest band in the history of rock.
But they’ve never done much when it comes to the Grammys. Prior to winning the statue for Best Traditional Blues Album for “Blue & Lonesome” on Sunday night, only 1994’s ‘Voodoo Lounge” notched a win for Best Rock Album. Prior to that, it was the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1986.
“Blue & Lonesome” is a stunner. Here’s what I had to say about it when I wrote up a bunch of releases last year for the dinosaurs of rock:
This might be my favorite Rolling Stones album ever, and I’m a student of their vaunted run of records from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s that featured “Sticky Fingers,” “Exile on Main Street,” and “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll.”
“Blue & Lonesome” consists entirely of blues covers, so in a sense it’s a true back-to-the-beginning effort from Mick, Keith, Ronnie, and Charlie. The Stones started out as a cover band, determined to preach the gospel of American blues, as Keith once put it.
The Stones’ core garage-band vibe matches up perfectly with heavy, rollicking blues numbers originally composed by Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and Willie Dixon. Imagine the young, raw Stones of the early 1960s combined with decades of experience and modern production. The result is just great, but the revelation is Mick Jagger’s skill as a harmonica player.
You don’t really get a lot of high-profile harmonica albums these days, but the instrument is crucial to the authentic Chicago blues sound, and Mick is a master. As Richards said when recounting how the album – recorded in just a few days and released in December of 2016 (I’ve grandfathered it into my 2017 list) – came about, he and Ronnie Wood were working up a few blues cover to get the band back into a groove, and Mick’s “harp” playing inspired them to keep going.
The goal was basically to get Mick playing more harp, Richards said. Was it ever worth it! (And for good measure, Eric Clapton joins in for a few tracks.)
This pretty much now is my favorite Stones record. A well-deserved win!
I have to point out that one of the nominees in this category – Eric Bibb and his album “Migration Blues” – is supremely impressive. To be honest, I thought the Stones would win, but I was secretly rooting for Bibb, an amazing and forceful 66-year-old bluesman and guitarist whom everyone should get to know better.