As you’ll hear in the opening moments of this video interview with Diesel, when we last spoke to him ten months ago he was supposed to be spruiking his then new studio album Sunset Suburbia. However, he was more excited to tell us about a solo blues album he had just begun work on from his home studio. We now know it’s called Alone With Blues, an all blues recording to be released on July 16, on which he plays all of the instruments.
Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips caught up with Diesel again to chat about the creation of Alone With Blues.
On Alone With Blues, Diesel pays tribute to giants like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush, Sam Cooke, Leadbelly, and Magic Sam. It is 11 tracks of veteran virtuosity from Mark Lizotte, the multiple ARIA award-winning singer and guitarist, augmented by double bass, blues harp, cello, percussion and more, all played and recorded solo at Diesel’s own Sydney studio during the 2020 COVID go-slow.
The lead single ‘Six Steel Strings’ had, until now, been lost for 30 years. “It was 1991”, says Diesel, “I think Ross (Wilson) saw me as a young bluesman in a long tradition. He asked about my background and put details into the lyrics, a tongue-in-cheek take on my life story in demo form that we knocked up together in an hour. It was only rediscovered when he moved house last year, and the timing couldn’t have been better because it’s such a perfect fit.”
What began of necessity offered its own challenges: how to best record music that you’ve always considered a collaborative artform, namely the blues, when you’re alone? Diesel’s method was “to go deep into each song, I worked hard to capture what’s special and hypnotic about each, and I was hell-bent on getting those subtleties into the grooves. Use the right guitar, the right sounds…I had to go to school a bit!”
Alone With Blues resonates with memories of the late great Chris Wilson, Diesel’s partner on Wilson Diesel’s Short Cool Ones LP, itself celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2021. Both feature Willie Dixon and Jimmy Reed classics, while the new ‘All Your Love’ is a Magic Sam barnstormer that had been considered for inclusion a quarter of a century ago. Mostly, though, it’s all about the blues harp: “I put a lot of effort into my harmonica playing on this record”, says Diesel, “Chris pushed me to play more harp, which was difficult when I was standing next to him, y’know? But he was always encouraging so what I play on this record, I play for Chris and for Michael Gudinski too, he’s the one that put Chris and I together in the first place.”
Another standout element is the supple and rhythmic double bass, used to effect on ‘Work Song’ (Cannonball Adderley) and a haunting version of Sam Cooke’s ‘Lost And Lookin’; “Sam is a benchmark singer for me”, says Diesel, “if there’s any one person I want to sound like, it’s him. His phrasing is insane, immaculate.”
With Alone With Blues, Diesel has conjured up one of his most thrilling and affecting albums yet.
Diesel – Alone With Blues tracklisting:
1. I’m Satisfied
2. Shame, Shame, Shame
3. Lost And Lookin’
4. Hoochie Coochie Man
5. I Can’t Quit You Baby
6. Boogie Chillen
7. Six Steel Strings
8. All Your Love
9. Work Song
10. Mirror Blues
11. Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
Alone With Blues (album) out 16 July 2021
Diesel – Greatest Hits / Alone With Blues tour Tickets on sale now from dieselmusic.com.au/shows. However please note, some of the listed shows may be impacted by covid restrictions.