Middle of the Road Eric Gales Provogue/Mascot Jimi Hendrix disciple Eric Gales has revealed a new dimension to his undeniable talent with an introspective and layered album that is the antithesis of its rather mundane title.
Middle of the Road sees Gales mixing blues with gospel, reggae and funk on an album that relies as much on rhythm work as it does on the Memphis guitarist’s rich lead breaks.
Gales describes it as a rebirth after a long career that began as a child prodigy who recorded his first album at 16 and who was hailed as Guitar World’s best new talent for 1991. His playing has been praised by heavy-hitters such as Carlos Santana and Joe Bonamassa but there have been serious bumps in the road that included jail time and drug addiction.
His 15th studio album, produced by industry veteran Fabrizio Grossi, reflects a decision to take a new route and kicks off with lighthearted banter with the toe-tapping, gospel-inspired blues of Good Times.
There’s some heavy soul-searching to come in tracks such as Change in Me (The Rebirth), Help Yourself (with young guitarist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram) and the dark I’ve Been Deceived. Only one track, Freddie King’s Boogie Man, is a cover and Gales teams with Gary Clark Jr to do it exemplary justice.
Middle of the Road is generally smoother and more textured than studio predecessor Good For Sumthin and features liberal use of female backing singers. Gales has varied the tracks nicely and the fat sound of his solos, at times beguiling and at others dazzling, seems to float above the speakers. The album comes to a fitting end in the same high gear in which it began thanks to the up-tempo instrumental Swamp.