Eric Gales Injects Modern Blues with Rock and Funk on ‘Crown’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Eric Gales is a blues-rock artist who released his first album at age 16. At the time, he and Joe Bonamassa were both hailed as the next torchbearers of the blues. Both have been successful although Gales’ career took a detour because of substance abuse issues, which ultimately landed him in Shelby County Correction Center for possession of drugs and a weapon. 

Gales and Bonamassa reunited in 2019 when Bonamassa invited Gales to play with him on a blues cruise. It was a happy reunion in more than one way. It was the first time the two had played together in 25 years. The reunion didn’t end with that cruise. Gales’s new album Crown was produced by Bonamassa and Josh Smith, and it shows Gales staking his claim at the head table of blues-rock artists. The new album is something of a journal of Gales’ struggles. Of the new album, he said, “These songs are about my life, and what’s happening in the world right now. When it came time to sing, I had to take breaks between vocals to cry and let it out. I was sharing my experiences as a Black man, and my private struggles.” Even the song titles such as “Survivor” and “Too Close to the Fire” hint at the struggles detailed in these songs.

The song that does the best job of encapsulating the struggles is “You Don’t Know the Blues”. In it, Gales catalogs things such as going to jail and sleeping in your car as the truth of the blues. The point being that if you haven’t experienced the things he mentions in this song, then you don’t know the blues. But even if you haven’t experienced the things in this song, you can still feel the emotion Gales poured into writing and performing this song. Even the guitar solo in this song is evocative. You can sense that he just cut loose and poured his heart into it. The song ends with a voice saying, “Dude, that s— was smokin’, bro.” And that is hard to dispute.

One of the notable songs on the album is “I Want My Crown”, featuring Bonamassa. With the muted guitar and the bass line, this one has a serious funk vibe. And if you think that no collaboration between these two would be complete without a guitar duel, you are absolutely correct. The instrumental break is a showcase featuring some serious shredding by both players. In this case, the victor isn’t between the two competing in the duel. It’s the listeners who get to hear the mastery of both of these great guitarists.

This is an album based in the blues, but it’s not necessarily your dad’s or grandpa’s blues. This is not the blues of front porches. Rather, it is a blues sound that can fill venues and festivals. Gales also pours a fair amount of rock and funk into these songs, so even if the subject matter is difficult, you can’t help but groove to it. “Put that Back” is a fine example. Just try to remain still when you hear everything going on in this song.

If Crown is Gales staking his claim in the blues world, then it’s fair to say the mission was accomplished. He has created a modern blues album that is as much a protest album as it is a dance album. That’s not something just any artist can do. Also, the album is 16 songs, so no listener will feel cheated.

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