OK, so the album is called “It Ain’t Easy” and it would, or rather is, too easy to say that actually it sounds like it actually was. Easy, that is. Corey Lueck and The Smoke Wagon Blues Band make it sound easy. Easy to make a modern day blues album that works.
The blues these days, or so it seems, leaves little room for invention and that very lack of invention has actually worked to the favour of this established Canadian blues band with songs like “Down hearted Blues” and “Drinking Hard And Steady” sounding just like the kind of blues that you would expect of any band aspiring to a place on the roster of the Alligator or Antone label back in the day. It’s a fact. Corey Lueck and The Smoke Wagon Blues Band sound rounded, mature and just the thing to tempt the taste buds of those uptown twelve bar fans of bygone days. But what is this? A white Canadian bluesman singing from the heart? Your ears do not deceive you. Carey Lueck isn’t scared to wear his heart on his sleeve and duly sledgehammers the soul into “Hold On To You” like he had found a way to fit an Otis Redding record into a crack pipe. That, brothers and sisters, is the way to do it. Live it, smoke it and sing it out loud and proud.
Even in moments of near karaoke, such as the title track, you still can’t fail to be impressed by those cigarettes and whiskey vocals while that aforementioned commitment to the deep blue straight and narrow does the unexpected and neatly uplifts the nearly spiritual “Damaged Goods” to past midnight heaven. Handing over the microphone to the impassioned Robin Banks – for “Where Did I Go Wrong” - slows this band not a jot either on their musical journey towards dawn’s early light.
They say the blues ain’t nothing but a feeling and Corey Lueck and The Smoke Wagon Blues Band have got that feeling just right on “It Ain’t Easy”.