Album Review: Big Dave McLean – Pocket Full of Nothin

Big Dave McLean has been a widely influential performer within the Canadian blues scene for more than thirty years now. His rich, gravelled voice has reached millions across the globe and like a fine whisky, it seems that McLean is the kind of man who only gets better with age.

Pocket Full Of Nothin’ is the latest release from McLean and it brings to life a glorious collection of old scholl blues melodies that can’t help but rock your world. Jam packed with bursting gospel organs, dextrous finger-plucked guitar strings and hard and heavy horns it’s a veritable treat that scintillates the senses and envelops, whisking you off to another time. McLean’s music is evocative and powerful, transforming your surroundings into a dirty basement bar somewhere in New Orleans. No matter your surroundings, when McLean starts up, your mind is going wandering far away. This evocative nature is driven through a multitude of manners and the reminiscent blues melodies are only the tip of the iceberg. McLean has what could be considered a classical flair within the blues genre but it is also carefully carved out and stamped as his own. While McLean has been doing this for a number of years, not every listener might have been aware of his raucous brand of blues and swing until they found him. For many, McLean is a hark back to the heyday of music and a wildly brilliant musician with an unrivalled passion.

With a voice that is so jagged and rough that it could make Tom Waits sound like a songbird, McLean bellows his lungs to the skies with a searing energy that could summon a tornado. His dark and moody harmonies were practically bred for blues. So when you take his lyrical decisions, summoning notions of moonlit highways, days gone by and good old fashioned voodoo-swing-blues; add a dash of harsh blues melodies that could crack a boulder and then cap it off with a voice like a rock tumbler and you have the genial artist that is Big Dave McLean. Pocket Full Of Nothin’ is far more a pocket full of something as McLean has more talent than a man can know what to do with, and mercifully for us an audience, he takes his excess energy and uses it to create a collection of soulful songs to move you – whether that movement is physical, emotional or something in-between, well that’s down to you.

Big Dave McLean brings to life a careful brand of good old fashioned blues, the likes that Muddy Waters would be proud of, and the kind that feels like it’s rarely seen these days. There is a reason that McLean has been such a presence over the last 30 years of his career and Pocket Full Of Nothin’ is another addition to that reasoning. Held within it is the key to a lengthy success and to his wide-spanning influence across the globe.

Review by Joe Knipe


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