The Mike Eldred Trio's 61 / 49 is named for a famed crossroads, mythical places in the lore of the blues. But guitarist/vocalist Eldred, backed by the Blasters' rhythm section of bassist John Bazz and drummer Jerry Angel, is a roots rocker at heart, and musically the collection has the feel of the wide-open spaces of the west.
Eldred's may not be a familiar name to many, but he's got some high-profile guests on hand to help out, including guitarists Scotty Moore(!), Kid Ramos, and Los Lobos' Cesar Rosa. Ike Turner contributes piano on a track, Riley Osborne is on B3, and Jeff Turmes on sax.
When Eldred does turn his attention to the blues, it's usually via tough-as-nails boogies and shuffles like the furious "Jake's Boogie," the swaggering "Louise," or the slinky "I Ain't Coming Back." Elsewhere, though, fare ranges from the acapella gospel of "Don't Go Down There" that opens the disc, to the almost new-wavish "Mr. Newman." "She's A Rocket" is flat-out rock 'n' roll, while "This Old Train," with its choral refrain, marries gospel and country and Tex-Mex to irresistible effect.
Eldred's vocals are adequate if not particularly remarkable, but he definitely has guitar chops to spare. His solos are generally hard-driving and sharp-edged, but "Ruby's Blues," a tune reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughan at his contemplative best, is an elegant exercise in understatement, and Eldred's acoustic slide on the title track that wraps things up is the equal of any.
It's a fine collection, clearly rooted in but by no means confined to the blues. Eldred is an excellent guitarist and a convincing singer, the band is rock-solid, and the guest list impressive. There may not be any truly revelatory moments, and it's a little too eclectic to qualify as absolutely essential, but there's much to like on this one ...