Music review: Grant Lyle brings some beauty to the blues

The blues is about feeling. It’s about locale. A state of mind. But mostly, it’s about digging in, expressing pain, celebrating the sensual, mapping out life in a 12-bar structure. Grant Lyle might be playing the blues, but there’s a progressive spirit that elevates his latest album, “So There,” to much higher ground. While far from perfect, “So There” radiates – and often pops – with invention, soul, and deep introspection.

Canada’s home to some of the best music being recorded today, and Lyle is clearly a musician/songwriter on the rise. “So There” opens with a song entitled, “Impression,” and yes, it definitely leaves one. It’s awash in suspended guitar chords, an undulating dance that promises an open door if you’re willing to walk through it. “Impression” is one of those pieces Hendrix would call “getting your mind together,” it just kind of hangs there and waits for you to acknowledge it; till it swallows you whole.

“Trouble Blues” is that gritty makes-your-face-squint jam, that simply invites a relaxed setting, and a good drink in hand. Plus, it’s as down-home-blues as you’re going to get on this set. “Librium’s” got some nice chord changes and a driving exuberance that’ll make you rock your head. “Levee Moan,” drops the mournful down a bucket and sends it slowly down into the abyss. And as the jaunty “You’ve Got Love” more than expresses, the blues doesn’t always have to be sad, it can be uplifting.

The 12-track journey takes you from the rural county all the way to the city limits, and heavily populated sidewalks. Like Hendrix and many guitarists before him, his real voice is in the wail, the grunt, bend, and convexity of his guitar phrasing. It’s not a slam to say that Lyle should have made an instrumental album. When a song can express all that ever needs to be said without the utterance of a voice on the track, that truly is an accomplishment, and “So There” covers a lot of ground.

Most refreshing of all?

You won’t mistake Lyle for anyone else; not if you listen closely. Sure, you hear some Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Duane Allman, and the usual suspects behind him, in the same way that nearly every jazz musician’s got a trace of Charlie Parker in their DNA, but unlike today’s pop music where everyone sounds pretty much like everyone else, Lyle’s got his own style, and a music that might move you.

“So There” will be released on CD in April, but is now available for digital download. Find it at CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes, or visit his website at

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