With friends like Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Paul Simon, Jeff Beck, Billy Gibbons, Joe Bonamassa, Brian Setzer, Sonny Landreth, John Hammond Jr., Joe Louis Walker, Stevie Van Zandt and Patti Scialfa, who needs Dion? Kidding. Kidding. As anyone who’s been paying attention for the past few years and albums knows, the 80-year-old veteran rocker — perhaps your grandma remembers him from early ’60s hits like Runaround Sue and The Wanderer — is still the type of guy who will never settle down. He’s still cranking out solid albums and songs. And he’s earned the lineup of VIP tributes on his umpteenth album. But he refuses to be overshadowed by all that starpower on this batch of 12-bar jams and bluesy shuffles — while he gives the guitar slingers plenty of room to stretch their legs work their mojo, Dion doesn’t give an inch on the vocals, monopolizing the microphone and relegating even some of the biggest names to the role of backup vocalist. In the end, they may be friends, but make no mistake: Dion always means business.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Dion’s Blues With Friends represents the fulfillment of a lifelong vision. Dion explains the album’s impetus: “I wanted an album of songs that were strong and memorable and told stories that were worth telling.” His songwriting efforts were supported by a cadre of great players, each of whom jumped at the chance to collaborate with a music legend they think of in heroic terms. He’s quick to point out just how enduring this creative relationship has been, “The blues have been at the heart of my music since the early 1960s. The Wanderer is a 12-bar blues and I was covering Willie Dixon and Jimmy Reed in my early years at Columbia — much to the dismay of my corporate masters.” That’s the way it’s long been for the man Lou Reed inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame more than thirty years ago. That night the normally taciturn Reed exalted, “And then there was Dion — whose voice was unlike any other I had heard before — a voice that stood on its own, remarkable and unmistakably from New York. Bronx soul.” The album’s guests include the cream of the contemporary scene’s blues-rooted slingers including Jeff Beck, Billy Gibbons, Joe Bonamassa, Brian Setzer, Sonny Landreth, Samantha Fish, John Hammond Jr., Joe Louis Walker, Rory Block, Jimmy and Jerry Vivino, vintage guitar guru Joe Menza as well as icons Stevie Van Zandt, Patti Scialfa, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison and Paul Simon. Yes, that’s a whole lot of star power but each participated not because of his or her marquee appeal but because of what each could add musically. The result is one reflective of nuanced devotion to the blues rather than a gratuitous display of individual virtuosity. It’s very much Dion’s album and those bold face names participating are most convincingly there for him.”