There are many genres featured here, but Haworth’s distinctive style brings them together.
Label: Bella Music
Time: 11 tracks, 41 minutes
This is Haworth touching all bases: in order, he covers slide blues, rock and roll, country, instrumental, two ballads, twelve bar blues, then back to country... you get the idea. In doing so, different tracks will appeal to different people. The danger is that by the same logic, other tracks might alienate some. For me the instrumental tracks are the best, making the most of the atmospheric and classic sound of his playing, but the country ones left me cold, watering down the album’s appeal.
As soon as Haworth begins this album, you can tell who it is. No one has the same guitar sound as him, and at times it can save a song.
The emergency surgery appears in “Boom,” a track that celebrates vivacity in old-timers. The piece starts off like any twelve-a-penny rock and roll – albeit one with some tremendous energy – but then Haworth sets off on a slide solo. It's a rare feature in the genre and while he’s playing it, the song is transformed.
The title track is another with real vitality, reprising the themes of Haworth’s “Grand Arrival” and “Judgement Blues,” comparing the inevitability of Jesus’ return with the sun rising. It urges listeners to be ready for Jesus coming back – and has a particularly appropriate ending.
“Enough is Enough” is a slightly tweaked version of a single he released a few years ago in protest at some local trees being cut down. Several layers of guitar and mandolin also make a cushion for his slide work.
“I had a Dream” is a country shuffle with plenty of mandolin, one that came to him in a dream (as happened with a couple of tracks here). A song of hope, it urges the listener to build their life “on the Rock and not on sand.” It’s another where an otherwise middle-of-the-road song is taken up a notch by his unique playing style.
“Holy Spirit of God” is the sort of simply-played acoustic worship song that could have come from his Wings of the Morning collection.
“Call on Me” is a lovely song of God calling out to people to find him. When it starts with a prominent, chilled bass line, you might think it will be a re-recording of the instrumental “Anywhere You Want To Be” from his now-deleted 1973 début album Let the Days Go By. There’s almost something mildly Cuban about the shuffling rhythms here, but when the chords descend quickly in this minor key track, it puts a smile right on my face.
Talking of Let the Days Go By – the mellow “All I Need is a Home” is a short re-recording of one of its most enduring tracks, but with less mandolin and with strings effects added. It’s not the only re-work on this selection. Haworth is no stranger to re-imagining songs – the title track of his five-star, must-hear, career-best album Sunny Side of the Street is one example. Here he tackles “Let’s Work Together,” the Wilbert Harrison track made famous by Canned Heat. It suits him well: a twelve bar piece that is ready for his slide embellishment, and with a positive message about community.
“We Never Thought This Could Happen” is about facing something terrible; about life being disrupted in unimaginable ways. So lines could apply, for example, to Covid (“Empty beds and photographs / Memories are all we have”) or Brexit (“Though we got what we wanted / we lost what we had... How could we believe a lie?”). Even writing this while Ukraine is being invaded in a cloud of disinformation, the words “This land of ours was free / But now be careful what you say” fit the bill. But while the lyrics have depth, musically it feels like a bonus track.
The highlights for me are two instrumental pieces. The first is a simple solo acoustic account of the Old Hundredth hymn tune often used for “All PeopIe That on Earth Do Dwell.” It’s gorgeous and so distinct in its style. The second, “Walk Away” again takes me back to his Island label début: chilled guitar, but this time with electric piano and some picked guitar soloing over the top. I could listen to these all day long and would still love him to expand on his instrumental versions of carols for a laid-back and surely wide-appealing instrumental Christmas album.
If you are familiar with Haworth, you’ll know he uses top rate musicians because he is one, and has been in demand for his own session talents. So again he is working with people who hold to his standards. Three of the players here – Chris Stainton, Henry Spinetti and Dave Bronze – were on the Royal Albert Hall stage at the George Harrison tribute Concert for George, alongside Clapton, McCartney, Jeff Lynne, Billy Preston et al.
So while two or three tracks feel a bit like fillers, there is some very fine stuff here, and Haworth’s unique sound brings them all together.