You have to be careful with title tracks. If you’re going to name your album after a song, it better be one with a great title and it better be an even better song because you are pinning the theme of your whole album on it. Picking a song to name the album after is making a claim that this particular song distills the essence of what the album is all about.
In the case of Different Shades of Blue, Joe really nailed it. The title points to the diversity present within the unity of the album, and it does so in a couple of different senses. First, this album is blues rock, and blues is generally, well, sad, to put it bluntly. And even in the various song titles, we hear a variety of different ways of describing the experience of sadness, pain, loss and the troubles of love and life. “Heartache Follows Wherever I Go,” “I Gave Up Everything For You, ‘Cept the Blues” and “Trouble Town” probably being the best examples of this (italics are my emphasis). This whole collection of songs givess a glimpse into the different modes in which sadness can be deeply felt and musically expressed.
But “Different Shades of Blue” also obviously refers to the different styles and forms of blues that Joe plays, from the soulful R&B emotion of “So, What Would I Do” to the power blues booty-shaker “Love Ain’t a Love Song.” And we all know that Joe really runs the gamut from the deepest pure blues to the heaviest blues rock: he does it all. The title of the album perfectly captures this.
Regarding the song itself, there are a couple of things I love about this particular track. One is the amazing acoustic riff which opens the song and which is one of the most memorable rhythm guitar parts on the album. I’m not at all an expert on what guitar Joe is playing and when, but that sounds like a 12-string to me, which is an instrument whose sound I love. It’s put to great use here. I also find Reese Wynans’ organ to fill out the texture gorgeously on this one. I’m not always the biggest fan of the sound of the organ, but it works perfectly on this track. My only minor quibble with the recording is that I’d love longer guitar solos – but I could probably say the same about a lot of studio tracks, as I could listen to Joe wail away for endless stretches of musical time. Like I said, a minor quibble only. Otherwise, an all-around excellent track and absolutely worthy of its title track status.
– Brian R.