Fleetwood Mac’s Jeremy Spencer – Conventry Blue (2014)

Featuring additional recordings from the same sessions that produced Bend in the Road, Jeremy Spencer’s newest effort dives deeper into that 2012 project’s sense of varied experimentation. As such, it continues a remarkable comeback for a performer who seemed to only have two gears as a founding member of Fleetwood Mac — Elmore James or Buddy Holly.

Some credit probably goes to Brett Lucas, a Mac fan who again brings along both a flinty sense of musical adventure and an able backing band. But Spencer himself, after a lengthy sabbatical was finally broken with 2006′s more traditionally blues-focused Precious Little, simply sounds reborn. Subsequently joining these younger musicians has opened up his muse, allowing him to build on those embedded influences rather than focus on them exclusively.

Titles like “Got to Keep Moving” and “Sweet Were the Days” point the way, as Spencer reaches forward into collaborations with Lucas (who helps shape “Blind Lover”) and Rachel May (who occasionally shares vocal duties), even as he returns to his past with a eye toward drawing out new details.

“Open the Door,” in fact, was co-written with Danny Kirwan and had been performed a couple of times on Spencer’s last touring dates with Fleetwood Mac in 1971. The song has now been radically reworked, however, into a scalding Stax-style number — complete with a solo turn straight out of the Steve Cropper handbook by Lucas. “The World in Her Heart,” an instrumental version of a tune originally found on 1972′s Jeremy Spencer and the Children; and “Endlessly,” the Cliff Richard-style closing track, also trace back to an earlier era — and yet they sound nothing like Spencer’s Elmore James-isms on early Mac projects like Mr. Wonderful.

Instead, you’ll find him dabbling in bossa nova (on the appropriately named “Letting Go of the Past”), old world charm (“Sounds like Paris”) and goofy humor (“Moonshine Slide”). Yes, in case you were wondering, the title track is a stripped-down blues. But even that is of a piece with the rest of this album — which is to say, loose, inventive, and delightfully open hearted. Coventry Blue (due March 1, 2014 via Propelz) finds Jeremy Spencer sounding, as another song intimates, every bit like the happy troubadour he’s become.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.