Spirit of the Blues is from Chicago-based singer, guitarist and songwriter Christian Collin, a devotee of blues and American roots music. Produced by Collin and Grammy Award-winning engineer Brian Leach and recorded at Joyride Studio in Chicago, Spirit of the Blues pays homage to his blues heroes while leaving a musical mark all his own. On the album’s dozen, all-original songs, Christian is backed by his longtime road band featuring Alex Evans on bass and Chris Morrow on drums. He is joined by notable guest musicians Billy Branch and Mathew Skoller on harmonica; and Johnny Iguana on piano and organ. Rounding out the package is Pete Galanis from Howard and the White Boys on slide guitar, Jen Williams on background vocals and Rodney Brown and his crew playing horns.
“Christian Collin makes the grade with breathtaking precision on his latest album,” writes former Detroit Blues Society president George Seedorff in the CD’s liner notes. “Collin rocks it up with a selection of soul blues from Jackson, Mississippi, tied end-to-end with Memphis style R&B, all wrapped up in hard-as-steel rockin’ lead guitar and slide the way it was done in Beaumont, Texas, by the great Johnny Winter some 50 years ago. It’s clear that Christian Collin has paid his dues. With a red hot crew of back-up singers, a tightly-tooled band and lots of tasty harp playing, Collin has combined razor sharp guitar licks right out of the west side of Chicago into something new. Serve it up with some tasty ribs and sauce and you are ready for a mighty fine barbeque. All of this is really no coincidence at all—it’s the side of the street that rock ‘n’ roll came from in the first place.”
Christian Collin was born in the Detroit area to a musical family. His father sang and played guitar and was an A&R man for Capitol Records, as well as road manager for Bob Seger. At an early age, Christian was immersed in the sounds of Motown, classic rock ‘n’ roll and the many variants of American roots music. Musicians gathered at the family home and their singing and guitar playing made a lasting impression on Christian as a child. His parents took him to see Little Feat shortly before the passing of Lowell George in 1979 and that concert profoundly influenced Christian, who began playing guitar at age 13. Having honed his musical chops playing bars and roadhouses across the Midwest for the last fifteen years, he is a seasoned bandleader whose dynamic performances leave audiences consistently impressed.
Collin was previously the front man for Molasses, a blues rock band that performed regionally and recorded two critically acclaimed albums. In 2012, he released his first full-length solo album, American Art, which received substantial radio airplay. Drawing from his nearly two decades of experience playing blues and rock ‘n’ roll, Christian is now primed to take his music to the next level with Spirit of the Blues.
Christian’s strong songwriting, soulful vocals and exceptional musicianship create a musical stew that excites and inspires. His voice has been described by one critic as “city-grit soulful and as honest as the lyrics he sings;” while another raved about his “heartfelt lyrics and a guitar that can testify!” Favoring Fender Strats, Telecasters, and a Gibson Les Paul Junior, Collin’s guitar playing is powerful and passionate, yet melodic and refined. He has a wide-range of musical mentors, and while these influences may be evident in his music, he is obviously his own man and has created a sound infused with originality.
On Spirit of the Blues, highlights abound throughout the disc, including “One and Only,” the high octane funky rock and blues opener that showcases the musical dynamism of the Christian Collin Band; “Player’s Game,” a catchy rockin’ blues shuffle documenting the trivial sexual pursuits of a big city womanizer; “A Woman Like You,” a fun southern blues rocker with honky-tonk piano; and the change-of-pace “Without You,” a slow and sensual R&B ballad that sounds like it was written by Bill Withers.
The title track of the album is a very personal song for Christian, delivered as a slow blues anthem that describes how the blues has inspired him and encourages others to find their own musical inspiration. “Highway Song,” showcases an upbeat blues shuffle featuring the interplay of Christian’s lead guitar and Mathew Skoller’s talented harmonica playing. Shifting gears again, the album moves on to “Dead Man Walking,” a unique and bluesy dirge about a lonely and desperate man. Having a dark, ethereal vibe and hypnotic rhythm, it’s the only song on the album that features Christian’s eerie and atmospheric slide guitar playing.
Other standout tracks include “The River (Unplugged),” a modern take on old school acoustic blues featuring Billy Branch on harmonica; and the album’s closer, “Forever Friends,” an emotionally charged soul ballad about two lovers going their separate ways, both with heavy hearts. With tasty Jimi Hendrix-meets-Steve Cropper inspired guitar licks, it’s the only song to feature a horn section, and is reminiscent of the classic ‘60s Stax era.
With the impressive release of Spirit of the Blues, Christian Collin tips his hat to the rich legacy of America’s musical forefathers, while aiming to leave his own mark as a contemporary bluesman. As the liner notes so aptly state, “there’s a rarely achieved sense of authenticity on this album that screams out the best in American Music … with screaming guitar work, killer vocals, catchy hooks and lyrics that stick in your head, this is how blues can really rock when it’s done right.”