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Album review: Dion // ‘Stomping Ground’

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Review by Andy Houghton for MPM

The term ‘living legend’ is often a journalistic cliché, but in the case of Dion I think its use is justifiable. His career has spanned the 1950s to the 2020s, and his considerable influence on other musicians cannot be overstated. He’s now poised to release ‘Stomping Ground’, the follow up to his critically acclaimed and commercially successful 2020 album ‘Blues With Friends’.

Stomping Ground’ comes with voluminous liner notes by Pete Townshend, and includes an intro by Dion that succinctly summarizes the philosophy behind his latest recorded endeavour:

When I was young, I was always striving for accolades and admiration,” says Dion. “Those were my goals. But when I reached them, they didn’t satisfy. I discovered joy when I leaned to stop caring about all that – when I learned to relax and make music with friends… music that would make more friends for us through its joy. To make music with friends, and to make friends through music: I can’t imagine a better life than this. I am grateful to my friends who made ‘Stomping Ground’ with me – and my new friends who are listening.”

The track listing reads like a Who’s Who of blues rock: guest artists appearing on tracks with Dion include Boz Scaggs, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, Patti Scialfa, Bruce Springsteen, Billy F Gibbons, Keb’ Mo’, Sonny Landreth, Joe Menza, Mike Menza, Marcia Ball, Jimmy Vivino, Rickie Lee Jones, Wayne Hood, Joe Bonamassa and G.E. Smith. Indeed, this illustrious roll call is perhaps the best testament to Dion’s influence and status in the genre.

Of the album’s 14 tracks, almost all were written by Dion and his songwriting partner Mike Aquilina. Indeed, there’s just one cover/tribute on the album: ‘Red House’, the Jimi Hendrix song that has become a blues standard, and Dion is joined by Keb’ Mo’ on that song.

Those with a long memory might recall that the follow-up single release to Dion’s 1968 hit ‘Abraham, Martin and John’ was ‘Purple Haze’, serving to underscore the connection that Dion has long had with the legacy of Jimi Hendrix.

With so many great names involved, you’d rightly expect ‘Stomping Ground’ to be a well-crafted piece of work, and it certainly is. But it’s so much more besides.

Dion’s talent is to bring out the best in each contributor, whether it’s the engaging delicacy of Mark Knopfler’s contribution to ‘Dancing Girl’, or the glorious gospel-like resonance of Patti Scialfa’s vocals on ‘Angel In The Alleyways’.

As a result, while Dion’s songwriting and performing talents provide the foundation for each track and the unifying style that makes the album a coherent whole, he gives his fellow performers the latitude they need to bring their own unique contribution to each song.

This makes for a captivatingly varied album, and one that is bursting at the seams with wonderfully mellow blues.

Stomping Ground’ is being released by KTBA Records. This new independent record label is an offshoot of Keeping the Blues Alive Foundation, Joe Bonamassa’s non-profit that aims to conserve the art of music in schools and preserve the rich culture and history of the blues.

In view of Dion’s profound and wide-ranging influence in blues music, I can’t imagine a more appropriate label for this outstanding release. Highly recommended.

Stomping Ground CD track listing

  1. Take It Back with Joe Bonamassa
  2. Hey Diddle Diddle with G.E. Smith
  3. Dancing Girl with Mark Knopfler
  4. If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll with Eric Clapton
  5. There Was A Time with Peter Frampton
  6. Cryin’ Shame with Sonny Landreth
  7. The Night Is Young with Joe Menza & Wayne Hood
  8. That’s What The Doctor Said with Steve Conn
  9. My Stomping Ground with Billy Gibbons
  10. Angel In The Alleyways with Patti Scialfa & Bruce Springsteen
  11. I’ve Got To Get To You with Boz Scaggs & Joe and Mike Menza
  12. Red House with Keb’ Mo’
  13. I Got My Eyes On You Baby with Marcia Ball & Jimmy Vivino
  14. I’ve Been Watching with Rickie Lee Jones & Wayne Hood

‘Stomping Ground’ is released on November 19th, 2021

Album available at https://bit.ly/diongro

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