“Traveler’s Blues” is not your typical blues album. Blues Traveler takes some chances with the material but it works. There are covers of established cuts from the genre like “Sittin’ on Top of the World” and “Trouble in Mind” but the group also puts an extra bluesy spin on less conventional selections like “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “They Call Me the Breeze” and “Roadhouse Blues” by the Doors.
“A lot of it was just sort of serendipity,” Wilson said. “We went into the pandemic and started wondering if this thing goes on for a year or even longer, if we’d be able to afford our houses in January. So, we set up some deals with Round Hill. There are a lot of these publishing deals going on and we set up a deal with them. They purchased some things so we had some income but we also entered into a record contract with them.
“Up until now, Round Hill has been primarily a publishing company where they buy old songs,” Wilson continued. “These companies hold onto those songs and over time gather up the revenue. Round Hill had a bunch of these old blues songs they had bought over the years. One of the facets of the deal was we do a bunch of these songs they own. We also brought in our own material and the label had a lot of ideas about that.”
“Traveler’s Blues” features guest appearances by Keb’ Mo, Warren Haynes, Rita Wilson, John Scofield, Crystal Bowersox and others. Despite the big name features, this is still very much a Blues Traveler album and each member put his own individual imprint on the material. There’s John Popper’s distinctive voice and indelible harmonica, the slippery interplay of the rhythm section, Chan Kinchla’s ripping guitar and Wilson’s tasteful keyboards.
“It was so great to get these amazing artists to sit in with us,” Wilson said. “Most of that stuff just kind of came together through from who knew who. People just reached out to see who was interested. To me, getting Scofield on this was as cool a get as anybody but all of the guests are fantastic in their own way.”
Return to the road
Blues Traveler launched its summer tour at Red Rock Amphitheater in Colorado on July 4, which was several weeks after Wilson was interviewed for this story.
“We can’t wait to get back on the road,” he said at the time. “We played two Blues Travelers gigs during the pandemic and John and I did one weekend, just a duet, up in Colorado. Otherwise, we’ve done nothing but make this record.
“We’re just so excited,” Wilson added. “I can’t even tell you how excited I am and I know the other guys feel exactly the same way. It’s going to feel so good to get out there and rock.”
Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW TO GO
Who: Blues Traveler
Where: JD Legends, 65 Millard Drive, Franklin
When: 7 p.m. Friday, July 16
More info: 937-746-4950 or www.jdlegends.com
Artist info: www.bluestraveler.com