Reviews Zone

Quinn Sullivan: Salvation (Provogue/Mascot Label Group) 7th June 2024


* Album Of The Month [June] *


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)



Quinn Sullivan’s vocals have improved greatly since I saw him opening for and playing with Buddy Guy on a UK tour here in July 2016, when Buddy’s protege was 16-years-old. He was just seven when blues legend Buddy Guy first took him under his wing.

Now 25, almost eight years since he was here with the Chicago blues great, Quinn’s vocals, guitar playing and the strength and standard of his original material are infinitely improved. One assumes the experience and road miles under his belt have helped him develop into this now formidable artist.

He is a triple threat; with tremendous maturity in his vocal and his songwriting. He has always had the guitar chops, since he was knee high to a grasshopper, just like Joe Bonamassa in that respect. Back when I saw Quinn when he was too young to buy a pint at the bar on tour with Buddy, I felt he played too many notes and rushed his solos. It killed off the feel of real blues. Smothering the emotion of the songs.

But on listening to his new album, “Salvation”, his fifth long player, none of those observations are valid today. These dozen tracks showcase a gifted and massively improved purveyor of the blues and blues rock, a cracking vocalist and and an audaciously good guitarist. The feel is well and truly there in his fingers on that fretboard.

He appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on US TV at the age of six, and also performed with B.B. King and Mr Guy. He was 12 when his debut album “Cyclone” came out, followed by 2013’s “Getting There”, 2017’s “Midnight Highway” peaked at # three on the US blues chart, and his last album, “Wide Awake” was released in 2021.

Album # five, “Salvation”, offers up a dozen tracks, opening with the rockin’ “Dark Love”, and second up, the Stevie Ray Vaughan-style “Salvation (Make Me Wanna Pray,)”, which has British band The Hoax vibes too – Quinn’s vocal is top end and his wah-wah licks sizzle. “Rise Up Children” is in Jonny Lang territory, “Don’t Wanna Die Today” grunges up the guitar and sits on a core riff nodding to Led Zep, with some lovely fluid licks dancing across the track.

Heavy nods to John Mayer on the utterly wonderful “Once Upon A Lie”, probably the best track of the set for me; his vocal [especially the falsetto], is fabulous. Quinn’s jazz-soaked guitar work, the vocal and the quality of the song are all to be admired. At three minutes and 36 seconds, it’s surely a shoo-in for radio plays.

Channeling Clapton, David Gilmore and Peter Green on the guitar parts for the graceful “Better In Love”, with a relaxed and innate vocal. Knopfler/Rea/Clapton guitar flavours on “Leave No Love Behind”. “I Can’t Stay (& You Can’t Go)” is a rockier track. “Nothin’ Gonna Change My Mind” is the first track with horns.

“Eyes On Me” is a very soulful cut with an emotion-soaked vocal.  A good example to demo Quinn coming of age vocally. Good song too, which could give a boy band a hit as a cover. Or even the great Robert Cray should grab this one. Oozing with soul. Stunning. “Half My Heart” puts me in mind of Clapton/Jeff Lynn and McCartney in style.

“Eyesight To The Blind (Live)” closes the set and for me, he slips back into the, “too many notes and rushed” mode, and it loses the feel. At more than five minutes, it is the longest track on the record. The lyric is dated and somewhat grates, coming from such a young guy and in 2024, him singing: “You talk about your woman, I wish you could see mine”. The track is pretty standard 1970s influenced stuff – he even sticks a brief “Layla” riff in it. I’d have dropped this live track and stuck with the 11 strong studio cuts.

Quinn was processing the sudden passing of his mother while making this record and writing these songs. The title, “Salvation” refers to Quinn’s thoughts that this record distracted him from the trauma of losing his mother, and he could use the songs for therapeutic ends.

Perhaps Quinn’s collaboration and involvement with Trouble No More, the project sanctioned by the Allman Brothers to continue the iconic band’s live work legacy, has been a factor in Quinn’s development and maturity that is so evident across this contender for one of the albums of the year of any genre. Grammy success would not be a surprise.

In the UK, we have a tradition of young talented kids with guitars being hailed as the next big thing and the new…..insert your own idea here [usually, Eric Clapton!]. Some have gone on to become respected adult guitar stars, such as Danny Bryant, Ben Poole, Oli Brown, Laurence Jones, Conor Selby, Joanne Shaw Taylor and the latest rising star Toby Lee.

Quinn of course, is an American, but I am sure most British guitar fans would happily adopt him as an honorary Brit, once they hear this album. [Our deserved album of the month for June 2024.] 



Words: Steve Best

Quinn Photo: Jim Arbogast


1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
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