Blue & Lonesome is a cover album by the Rolling Stones—their 23rd British and 25th American studio album—released on 2 December 2016. It is the band’s first album to feature only cover songs, and their first studio release since 2005’s A Bigger Bang, with its eleven-year gap being the longest between two albums from the band. Despite the short time length of just around 43 minutes, the album was released as a double LP. “Just Your Fool”, a Buddy Johnson cover (though the Rolling Stones version is based on Little Walter’s arrangement) was released as the first single from the album on 6 October. The name of the album is from a song which Little Walter wrote, “Blue and Lonesome”.
Though there had been an eleven-year gap between albums, the Rolling Stones kept the same basic production and musician team as A Bigger Bang. Joining vocalist Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards as producers was Don Was, who had been working with the group for most of the prior two decades. In the studio were band members Ronnie Wood (guitar) and Charlie Watts (drums), alongside contract players Darryl Jones (bass), Chuck Leavell (keyboards) and Matt Clifford (multi-instrumentalist). Eric Clapton contributed guitar on two tracks and drummer Jim Keltner plays percussion on another.
Recorded over a marathon three-day session in December, 2015 the album was released a year later to robust sales; reaching number one on the album charts in the UK and over a dozen other countries, and number four in the US. It was certified gold or platinum in several countries. The first Stones album of the streaming media age, many of the songs from the album charted on several top-40 digital music charts, and the lead single “Just Your Fool” was a top-40 hit on several airplay and genre-specific charts. The album received high critical praise, receiving four- and five-star ratings from many top music journalism outlets, and accolades from jazz and blues publications. The album was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 2018, the band’s first Grammy in 23 years.
Blue & Lonesome was recorded in just three days in December 2015. In April 2016, at the launch of the Rolling Stones career retrospective Exhibitionism, the band confirmed that their new album was due to be released “some time in the autumn”. Richards said the album would feature “a lot of Chicago blues”. Eric Clapton plays guitar on two tracks; he was recording his own album in the same studio as the Stones were and was asked to play on a few tracks. The album is entirely blues-based, consisting of covers of artists such as Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter.
This is the first album since Dirty Work (1986) to not feature any guitar playing from Jagger (who instead concentrates completely on vocals and harmonica), although he is pictured in the album’s booklet playing guitar during the album’s sessions. It is also the first album since It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (1974) to not feature a lead vocal from Richards. Likewise, it is also the first album since Dirty Work to release a lead single that was not a Jagger/Richards composition with “Just Your Fool”.
On 6 October 2016, the Rolling Stones changed their “tongue and lips” logo, which first appeared on their Sticky Fingers album, from red to blue.
On 8 November 2016, the Rolling Stones released a video for “Hate to See You Go”.
On 25 November 2016, the Stones released a one-track limited edition electric blue 10″ vinyl record of “Ride ‘Em on Down” (on the UMC label) on the occasion of the Record Store Day Black Friday 2016. The track is a cover of Eddie Taylor’s “Ride ‘Em on Down” originally recorded by Taylor in Chicago on 5 December 1955 for the Vee-Jay Label (and released as VJ 185).
On 1 December 2016, they released a video for “Ride ‘Em on Down”. The video features actress Kristen Stewart driving through Los Angeles in a blue 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback.
During its first week the album moved 106,000 sales to debut at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart, the second-highest opening sales week for an album in the UK in 2016. On 3 February 2017 it was certified Platinum there, for sales over 300,000 copies. It also debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 with 123,000 album-equivalent units, of which 120,000 were pure album sales. It was also the No. 2 best selling album of the week in the US. Despite strong initial sales, the album remains to this day the only Stones’ studio album without a certification in the USA. By 17 February 2017 the album had reached global sales of 2,000,000.
Blue & Lonesome was met with positive reviews from critics noted at review aggregator Metacritic. This release received a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 21 reviews. Kitty Empire from The Observer called it “a labour of love”, while Alexis Petridis of The Guardian said the Stones here are “more alive than they’ve sounded for years”. Robert Christgau was less impressed in Vice, saying the album is “a sodden thing – many old rockers have recorded sharper, spunkier, wiser music”.
The album won Album of the Year at the 2017 Jazz FM Awards. The Rolling Stones also won the Blues Artist of the Year Award at the event, held in April 2017.
On January 28, 2018, Blue & Lonesome received a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album of the Year at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards. The award was the Stones’ third Grammy of their career and their first win since the 1995 show. (by wikipedia)
As Keith Richards tells it, the Rolling Stones’ first-ever all-blues album is the result of the band learning how to play in the unfamiliar surroundings of Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studios. To ease into the new place, the Stones decided to knock out a version of Little Walter’s “Blue and Lonesome” and it sounded good enough that the band decided to cut a few more covers, winding up with a full album of Chicago blues in a few days. The Stones haven’t worked at such swift speed in decades — not since the early ’60s, when they were churning out two albums a year — and much of the appeal of Blue & Lonesome lies in its casualness: by being tossed off, the album highlights how the Stones play together as a band, blending instinct and skill. Blue & Lonesome isn’t a showcase for virtuoso playing — even Eric Clapton’s two smoldering solos are part of the tapestry — but rather a groove record, emphasizing feel and interplay while never losing sight of the song.
Such commitment to song is one of the reasons Blue & Lonesome winds up as an unexpected triumph from Mick Jagger. A blues album from the Stones always seemed like a dream project for Keith Richards, who always championed the band’s blues roots, but it’s Jagger who dominates the album, playing searing harp and singing with nuance and power. Always a guarded performer — back in 1974, he scoffed at the notion of letting his feelings flood on the page — Jagger seems freed, pouring heart into the slow burners and uptempo shuffles alike. The rest of the Stones match his commitment and that’s what makes Blue & Lonesome something remarkable. Conceptually, it’s clever — if this winds up being the last Rolling Stones album, it provides a nice bookend to their 1964 debut — but it’s artistically satisfying because it’s the Rolling Stones allowing themselves to simply lay back and play for sheer enjoyment. It’s a rare thing that will likely seem all the more valuable over the years. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)
Mick Jagger (vocals, harmonica)
Keith Richards (guitar)
Charlie Watts (drums)
Ronnie Wood (guitar)
Eric Clapton (slide guitar on 06., guitar on 12.)
Matt Clifford (keyboards)
Darryl Jones (bass)
Jim Keltner (percussion on 09.)
Chuck Leavell (keyboards)
01. Just Your Fool (Walter) 2.16
02. Commit A Crime (Burnett) 3.38
03. Blue And Lonesome (Walter) 3.07
04. All Of Your Love (Sam) 4.46
05. I Gotta Go (Walter) 3.26
06. Everybody Knows About My Good Thing (Grayson/Horton) 4.31
07. Ride ‘Em On Down (Taylor) 2.49
08. Hate To See You Go (Walter) 3.21
09. Hoo Doo Blues (Hicks/West) 2.37
10. Little Rain (Abner Jr./Reed) 3.32
11. Just Like I Treat You (Dixon) 3.24
12. I Can’t Quit You Baby (Dixon) 5.13