Who would have thought that a lad from Newcastle could deliver such an authentic blues sound as Joe Strouzer has? Well, here is an artist who has captured the true essence of the genre with his music and lyrics. Since his studio debut ‘Bottle Broke‘ EP (2015), he has made a name for himself within the world of blues, gaining praise from legends such as Leroy Martin. He has taken his guitar, harmonica and banjo on an adventure from Newcastle, all over the UK, Europe and America. During his adventures, he has released the album ‘9th Ward Tape‘ and a string of EPs called ‘May‘, ‘June‘ and ‘July‘.
Not one of his songs fails to impress as he captivates with his lyrical qualities wrapped in a soulful blues soundtrack. Some stand out more than others, including “Dragonflies”, “Baby How Can It Be”, and “Golden Skies”. He has refined his various traits and used them to assemble his new album, ‘Newcastle To New Orleans‘. As the title implies, it is about the travels he has had with his music. He says it is “steered by his love of blues and folk music, from humble beginnings in Newcastle dive bars, to the muddy banks of the Louisiana bayous and New Orleans street corners. These songs tell of love lost and won, friendships grown, putting down roots, hard travelling and finding the way back home”.
‘Newcastle To New Orleans‘ promises more blues goodness similar to the releases before it. To help enrich his sound, Joe brings along his parlour guitar, his Dobro called “Willie”, acoustic and electric harmonica and an old Kay 5 string banjo named “Lillie Mae”. Not only that, but he has enlisted the talents of Joseph Trudgeon (double bass), Paul Archibald (drums, a suitcase, also some pots and pans), and Clementine Brown (fiddle). With all the pieces in place, let’s find out what the album will offer.
Setting the mood and tone for the album comes “Chicken Song”. From the outset, the depth of his storytelling is clear to hear. He starts his tale with, “As I awoke one Tuesday morning poured my coffee out the pot / I rambled down to my front door I loosened up the lock /And I stepped outside way down in New Orleans”. His words share a day of his life as a New Orleans street musician. As for the soundtrack, it begins with a leisurely tempo to reflect the start of the day. But, the fun begins as it hits the midway mark as Strouzer’s harmonica ushers in an upbeat toe-tapping groove.
There is something special when a song talks about places you know. Maybe this is why “Pink Lane” is a personal standout moment from the album. Strouzer sings about this place in Newcastle and The Jazz Cafe. It is perfectly summarised with the lines, “Gypsy Dave playing that slide guitar / The Jazz Cafe the tin can bar / No one hears the blues falling like rain / Through the back doors and the bars up the old Pink Lane”. For the neutrals, it’s a slow-flowing track with the harmonica and subtle drums adding a charm that is difficult to resist. Its stripped-back vibe lets you appreciate the storytelling quality on show. Following on comes “Rattling Chain” with its haunting tone. A tale inspired by his love of horror and ghost stories and how his mind can wander during the darkest hours of the night.
“Engineer” brings another softer and slower tone, but it allows his way with words to shine again. The combination of the fiddle and banjo adds so much to the atmosphere of the soundtrack. “Walking Out Your Door” opens up with his attention-stealing harmonica. He soon begins his tale about “picking yourself up from heartbreak and moving on”. What stands out about this song (apart from the stunning harmonica and a great solo moment) is Strouzer’s vocals. He delivers a soulful tone to sublime effect. As a result, it makes lines such as, “I learned to love again after I was betrayed / Lord I swore when I walked out your door / I wouldn’t turn back around” stand out even more.
Joe Strouzer takes the listener on a personal journey from ‘Newcastle To New Orleans’ with his captivating new album
Strouzer writes about his final days in New Orleans with his friends in “Marie’s Bar”. He shares his words with fondness as he reminisces about this memorable time. Next is a personal moment from the artist. “Song For Willie” is in memory of his best friend and musical partner, Willie Singerman. There is a sadness to its sound delivered by the violin (by Clementine Brown) and the banjo (by Strouzer). His vocals reflect the mood, especially as he shares the repeated line, “To say goodbye, Say goodbye”. But he continues to say that he will never forget his friend by saying, “Though me and my brother part /I’ll carry you with me in my heart”.
“St Claude Bridge” sees Strouzer deliver a playful bluesy moment. His guitar is mesmerising and grabs the listener’s attention. It dances through the song and burst further into life with a superb solo section. This track is all about his stunning work on his six-string and the groove he creates. “Squirrel Line” keeps the fun elements going with more of a folky atmosphere. A track about simple observations about him “watching the squirrels run along the telephone lines between the ancient oak trees”.
The penultimate track brings an infectious toe-tapping moment with “Cajun 2 Step”. A kind of song that will get the crowd in great spirits and dancing when performed live. For the finale, Strouzer returns to Newcastle with “Homeward Bound”. Again, as a local lad, it’s hard not to feel connected as he talks about my hometown. Vocally is interesting as he shares the tale with a slight Geordie twang (local accent). It showcases that this talented songwriter never forgets his roots. A great way to close out ‘Newcastle To New Orleans‘. Even if you are not a fan of the blues, this is an album you need to hear due to his storytelling qualities. Press play and let Joe Strouzer sweep you away on an audio adventure.