Bronx In Blue is an all-acoustic blues outing highlighting the music that first inspired Dion as a child growing up in the Bronx. With songs by Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, Jimmy Rogers, Hank Williams, Lightnin' Hopkins and Jimmy Reed, the collection is a soulful tour de force for Dion, not only in his familiar role as a magnificently interpretive vocalist but, also, as a brilliantly innovative guitarist. Razor & Tie. 2006.
As the voice behind such frothy oldies as "Runaround Sue," "The Wanderer," and "Ruby Baby," Dion doesn't spring to mind when one thinks of great blues interpreters. But this stripped-down session--the singer accompanies himself on acoustic guitar with just a hint of percussion--shows the former teen idol to be a convincing and affecting folk-bluesman. While nobody will confuse Bronx in Blue
with Son House, Dion is in exceptional form, as he interprets about a dozen classics and contributes a newly written song. Even attempting to cover such crusty, trusty warhorses as "Crossroads" (one of four Robert Johnson tracks here), Howlin' Wolf's "How Many More Years?," and Jimmy Reed's "Baby What You Want Me to Do" is a daring move, but Dion succeeds due to his sense of integrity, obvious love for the genre, and an enthusiasm that leaps from the speakers.
His voice is clear and emotional, his guitar playing frisky yet surprisingly accomplished--and the sheer joy Dion conveys on tracks like Hank Williams Sr.'s "Honky Tonk Blues" is contagious. The exceptional recording quality brings an immediacy and intensity to the performance, making Bronx in Blue
a revelation for both oldies lovers and roots blues fans. --Hal Horowitz