Kim Simmonds was part of the wave of British blues guitarists of the late ‘60s. From 1965 onward, he led Savoy Brown, one of the most workmanlike and indefatigable blues outfits of the era. Savoy Brown lasted when other acts gave up. Even during the wilderness years of the 1980s – a time when what passed for blues leaned heavily in a rock direction – Simmonds kept the faith. I jumped at the opportunity to interview him when the opportunity presented itself in late 2017; I found him as committed as ever to his musical path.
In August 2022 Simmonds announced that he had been being treated for colon cancer; by December he was gone. But he left behind a gift for the faithful. Blues All Around was put together during Simmonds’ last days, but it doesn’t sound like the work of a man with one foot out the door. His passion and dedication to his brand of blues shines brightly on these dozen tracks. Some are quite spare (and brief), like the opening fragment “Falling Through.” Others are more fully developed, like “Going Down South,” a tune on which he wails nonstop on slide guitar. Simmonds’ harmonica is omnipresent throughout the record, too.
The song structures and lyrics are nothing revolutionary, nor should they be. This is classic heavy blues, and Blues All Around surveys the blues landscape, picking and choosing the textures that suit Simmonds and his rhythm section (Garnet Grimm on drums plus bassist Pat Desalvo). There’s no filigree here: no horns, no backing vocal chorus (there’s a bit of uncredited organ on the title track). Save for the sharp production values, one suspects that the record sounds pretty much like the trio would have delivered these songs live onstage.
As a parting gift from an artist whose career spanned nearly 60 years, Blues All Around is a gem indeed. But considered objectively on the merits, it’s a winner as well.