Solomon Hicks grew up in Harlem and this album definitely gets its roots from there, with touches of showband Blues, jazz and gospel running all through it.
He started playing guitar at age 6 and by his teens he was playing as lead guitarist in the house band at the legendary Cotton Club, playing four nights per week. He was also touring with the band and learning his chops from some of the best around.
So to his debut and it is a cracker. Thoroughly enjoyable from the beginning of ‘I’d Rather Be Blind’ to the fading notes of ‘Help Me’ and all the tracks between.
He covers a lot of different styles, so much so that I did begin to wonder what his core sound was, and sings and plays them brilliantly: his voice is a strength, sounding somewhere between Robert Cray and Lenny Kravitz, but his guitar playing doesn’t lag behind and he has a remarkable flexibility and heart in his playing.
There are so many favourite tracks here: ‘What The Devil Loves’ has a rich soul feel with a beautiful guitar line running all through it while ‘421 South Main’ is a stirring roadhouse boogie with his guitar set against a superb Hammond – one of those numbers you can imagine playing out a show for hours. ‘Have Mercy On Me’ has a great gospel rhythm and his version of ‘Every Day I Have The Blues’ somehow reminds me of the British Blues boom with a stunning guitar line. The album closes on a beautiful version of Sonny Boy Williamson’s ‘Help Me’ with delicate guitar and a heartfelt vocal.
It’s a brilliant debut album, I still feel as though he hasn’t really shown who he is but the end result is still terrific.