Reviews Zone

EXCLUSIVE: Quinn Sullivan: Midnight Highway (Provogue/Mascot Label Group) March 24th 2017

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Discovered by Buddy Guy when he was eight-years-old, now 17, young Quinn has also shared the stage with Eric Clapton, Los Lobos, The Roots, Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi and Joe Bonamassa, and he opened for B.B. King, who later invited him to play his treasured “Lucille” guitar.

He appeared multiple times on national TV in the US, with guest appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Oprah, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Conan and twice on The Ellen DeGeneres show.

Quinn Sullivan has been a music professional for more than 75 percent of his life. He has performed on concert and festival dates throughout the United States – including at storied venues like Hollywood Bowl, RFK Stadium and Madison Square Garden – travelled overseas – performing at both the Montreux Jazz Festival and India’s Mahindra Blues Festival – and played several editions of the Experience Hendrix Tour, backed by Jimi’s original bassist Billy Cox.

His third studio album, Midnight Highway, was produced by multi Grammy-winner Tom Hambridge – who is also studio and road drummer.  Quinn had a hand in writing three of the tracks, “Eyes For You”, “Lifting Off” and “Going.”

The album was recorded primarily at Nashville’s prestigious Blackbird Studio with some of the greatest players in Nashville, including many of the same musicians who played on the Buddy Guy albums that Hambridge produced. These include bassists Michael Rhodes and Tom Macdonald, guitarist Rob McNelley, and keyboard player Reese Wynans, a veteran of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the legendary Buddy Guy not too long ago, and he was raving about young Quinn, urging me to check him out, I did, and tipped him for big things in the blues column I wrote at that time in another magazine. Then earlier this year, Buddy was over here for some shows and who did he bring with him as support and to join him for some of his set? Quinn Sullivan.

The kid was good. Very good. Guitar playing exceptional. Songs a mixed bag. The vocals not quite there. The vocals on this album are a lot, lot better.

13 tracks. Opens with “Something For Me,” distorted guitars and vocal, and progresses into a beautiful groove, and some gorgeous Albert King/Clapton-esque licks, and barrel house plink plonk piano. But the guitar work is stunning.

Second in, “Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming,”as a song it sticks out a bit in this set. A kind of cheery, US teen pop, Bieber-esque thing. A teenie bit of a country vibe maybe, but overall, not sure why this made the album. The vocal is actually really strong, and he sounds relaxed and like this is his bag. Nothing to do with blues or rock or attitude. Maybe they are going for the younger market via radio. It’s still nice though, but just that; nice.

“Midnight Highway,” is a slower, bluesy track, and the early licks sounding a tad like the fabulous Derek Trucks. Nice song, again you can hear a country influence, and the likes of Paul Rodgers, Lowell George and Allman Brothers. It’s actually quite lovely and could get him some coverage on US country radio. The guitar work underneath the vocal is spine tingling. 17-years-old? Oh my……….

“Crazy Into You,” starts off as a kind of white funk, a la Red Hot Chilli’s-ish, and then goes into a pop thing. Lots of production on the vocal. Brush strokes of outrageously good guitar. An OK song.

“Eyes For You,” sits on gentle acoustic guitar, a country blues feel, a very nice laid back vocal and a song Paul Simon should have written. “Lifting Off,” kicks things back up a notch, another funky vibe, but it is not one of the strongest songs here. No lead guitar breaks and more a foot in the pop market.

“She Gets Me,” 4.42 long and it is not until three minutes in do we get some absolutely breathtaking guitar work, with the superb production making this a little gem. “Rocks,” on a grungy boogie tip, infectious 70s rockin’ blues rock with some clever lyrics. The laid back ballad “Going,” sets a nice mood and Quinn is nicely controlled in his vocal and his playing later in the track.

“Graveyard Stone,”   features a mini drum solo which leads into some fine guitar work from Quinn, which for some reason is set back in the mix and on a bed of thick reverb and delay, but those licks are killer. Cream and Hendrix nodded to.

The lovely instrumental “Big Sky,” starts with the first upfront piano on the album, and some playing as is the restrained guitar. Very Clapton-like, circa late 1970s. Sweet tone and finely crafted; free as a bird licks. Again, reminiscent of Mr Trucks and an Allman Brother. In fact, Peter Green’s secret love child?

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” Mr Harrison’s epic, a brave choice to tackle on your debut. Such a big song. Amazing to hear his vocal sounding very similar to Harrison’s. A huge Beatles fan and producer Tom researched the mike placements and the nitty gritty of how it was originally recorded, to try to get close to the original. They do. This time the production and treatment on the voice was spot on. It’s a very decent go at this iconic song, but doesn’t take it anywhere else and no one can ever hope to beat George’s version.

“Buffalo Nickel” closes the set with a mammoth eight minute and 18 second mid tempo, ballsy Allman Brothers flavoured instrumental, and the guitar work – yet again leaning towards Derek trucks territory –  is again way, way above the normal 17-year-old axe victim’s ability out there. Simply stunning.

While British blues youngster Laurence Jones, who blasted onto the scene at 18 and is now 24, has grown into a credible, globe trotting guitar slinger, Provogue have recently signed not one but two teenage blues guitarists to give him a run for his money. UK artist Aaron Keylock, 16, and 17-year-old US wunderkind Quinn Sullivan.

Two very different singers, songwriters and artists. Both very talented. Both dropping their Provogue debuts early 2017. Both ones to watch and both likely to see their stock rise and rise in the next few years. Aaron is very good. Quinn is frighteningly good. Let the battle commence!


By Simon Redley   


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