You only need three things to play the blues: a good guitar, an innate understanding of the music and thirty years in which to do it. Maple Blues Award winner Steve Kozak qualifies on all three counts. The latest offering from this seasoned Canadian bluesman offers a tasty mix of blues as seen through a decidedly West Coast lens.
The aptly named new release It's Time prophetically and succinctly states that putting in time is indeed a prerequisite of being a great musician, with some veteran bluesmen even attaining the status of venerable, beating time itself at its own game. Time is also about understanding the past. One cannot play American roots music with conviction and credibility without a solid understanding of the evolution of the genre.
This new album is a mix of fairly obscure covers and self-penned tunes. After several listening sessions, it soon becomes apparent that Steve Kozak is coming into his own as a talented songwriter. Augmented by very tasty licks and understated riffs, it is a cohesive musical statement weaving different facets of the blues into a seamless ensemble.
A cover of the very cool Brook Benton song “Kiddio” particularly appeals, with its catchy turnaround and infectious melody, Kozak has put a real polish on this tune. The Magic Sam number “Every Night and Every Day” conveys a sense of immediacy and delves deep into the blues.
Kozak's own “Trouble” evokes a real Louisiana Bayou feel and could have been recorded in Eddie Shuler's garage at Goldband Records, but with less whiskey and more microphones. Then there is another Kozak composition called “That's Cool with Me”, a rollicking R&B number reminiscent of the heyday of Specialty Records with a hint of Louis Jordan; a real barn burner.
Two other stand-out tracks are “A Stranger in My Hometown” and “Goin' Fishin'”, both written by Steve Kozak, are autobiographical and deeply personal. The former can be interpreted in several ways. One can think of rock 'n' rollers feeling out of place in rapidly gentrifying urban centres. In a broader sense, it can also be indicative of the alienation the average working musician may feel in this digital age. The latter track is more straightforward and literal. It speaks of the simple joys of going fishing. If there is one thing that Kozak loves as much as guitar slinging, it's getting out on the water for a day of fishing.
All in all, It's Time offers a colourful palette of musical expression with a cohesive theme that gives a loving acknowledgement to that multifaceted thing we call the blues.