New sounds from close to home
LOOKING INTO THE SUN
As a teenager, Tim Gartland fell in love with the harp playing of James Cotton and Little Walter and later studied harmonica with Jerry Portnoy. Now, after a quarter-century’s immersion into the blues that stole his heart, the Ohio-born Boston transplant has arrived with an easygoing yet expressive voice of his own.
On “Looking Into the Sun,’’ tradition meets topicality on the deceptively jovial title track, an indictment of Wall Street greed and economic apocalypse. The album marks the solo debut for Gartland, longtime leader of the Boston roots outfit the Porch Rockers. But you’d never know it from the singer-songwriter’s conversational air and harmonica flair.
There’s a seasoned swing in the jazzy instrumentals “Blues for Mr. Bryant’’ (highlighted by a fluid groove by guitarist Kevin Barry and pianist Tom West) and “Staxed,’’ a romp that pays faithful tribute to the legendary Memphis label. “My Phone Said We Talked’’ offers a comical warning about the dangers of drinking and dialing, while the spare, spooked “When I Was Alive’’ simmers with something darker, and more memorable.
Overall, Gartland’s agreeable barroom blues is more grounded than it is groundbreaking. But “Sun’’ does a laudable job of irrigating the deep roots of a rich music whose reach, though bowed over time, remains unbroken. (Out Tuesday)
Tim Gartland plays a CD-release show at Johnny D’s on Wednesday, 8 p.m. Tickets: $10. 617-776-2004. www.johnnyds.com