Feb. 4, 2016 01:17 PM

John Lisi’s new record, Shut the Front Door, likely takes its name from the chewing gum commercial that attempts to clean up dirty mouths. Likewise, Lisi’s record is a clean version of something that is normally dirty. Not that the blues is dirty in the vulgar sense of the word, but classic blues is, while fine, a guttural, rugged and raw art. This is not to say that Lisi’s album isn’t good — it’s just to say that it is a decidedly well-made, between the lines and well-composed affair. Great guitar licks, yes; the pain and roughness of Howlin’ Wolf, no.

Lisi does a great job of fusing New Orleans rhythm and groove into the blues and introducing new tracks to the lexicon, which has far too many covers. Many are loaded with (504) influences — soul singer guest spots, plenty of dizzying trumpet and sax accompaniment. Even when competing with the excellent add-ons — such as the brassy sorrow of “There Will Be” — Lisi’s guitar works shines.

On “Blue Hair Blonde,” he comes out stomping with a mountain music blues feel, while “Mariposa” warps genres to create something of a modern P-Funk featuring Bootsy Collins. Cuts like “Alright, Alright” and “We Sho Aint Saints” would have sounded at home rattling the candlelit tables at the old 307 Jazz & Blues Club.

One that stands out is “Break in the Rain,” a daytripper’s delight that is nowhere near the expectations of blues or delta music. Yet, it works really well. Lisi’s far-out Dobro gives a near other-worldly sound that underlines why he is such a respected guitarist. It also piques the curiosity of where the blues could go from here.


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