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Life follows a predictable path… you’re born and are essentially helpless in your early years. Over time you grow and become increasingly independent, peaking in your late teens and early 20’s as you now have the freedom to to explore wild new frontiers and the confidence to not worry about failing in your attempts at doing so.

Then inevitably once you taste some success you begin to take fewer risks in life as you become more afraid of losing what you’ve already gained and as you gradually take on more responsibility you become more conservative, envious of those younger than you who are now the ones staking out new ground while you zealously guard your own small plot of land.

Eventually you get old and are essentially helpless again before you die and are soon forgotten.

Have I left out anything?

Oh yeah, if you’re a musician then there’s a twist to that third stage wherein you turn to musical styles that are far less ambitious, hoping to somehow remain relevant as time passes you by.


All I See Before Me Is A Rocky, Rocky Road
Jimmy Liggins was older than usual when it comes to getting a start in music, but that tends to happen when you were delayed by pursuing other things – boxing and being a chauffeur to his successful musician brother in his case – before picking up the guitar and starting to write and sing for himself.

That delay actually did him well because had he been cutting music in the previous decade he’d either have been a little too crude for what was then considered cutting edge, or he’d have been slotted in pure blues where he likely wouldn’t have stood out.

Instead he had the good fortune to come along as rock ‘n’ roll emerged and found that he fit in this new genre like hand in glove which enabled him to become a rising star in the emerging genre.

But now, a half decade later, he was in his mid-30’s, most of his hits were behind him, and his repetitive nature meant he seemed even older still as the music he helped to define had changed more than he was capable of keeping up with, let along trying to stay ahead of the curve. So it’s hardly surprising that with Dark Hour Blues he does what so many others have done – and will do in the future when their commercial appeal appears to be waning – which was to lean into a simpler, less demanding brand of music with a far more stagnant audience.

As dispiriting as that can be to witness, that’s also what makes rock ‘n’ roll so great historically. The constant turnover in fans is what ensures that few acts stick around as dominant creative forces for decades and in order to survive commercially white artists hitting that stage in their career will often turn to pop music while black artists will begin to be identified as blues, as those genre fan bases are… shall we say… more “seasoned”.

Okay, they’re old and decrepit with one foot in the grave… you happy?


Every Wrong Way I Choose
As this record starts you immediately think “pure blues”, no question about it. The pacing, the prominence and the style of the guitar supplemented by the barroom piano and slow thumping drums on top of which we find Jimmy Liggins giving us a very deliberate lead vocal that is following the standard blues structure.

If it wasn’t for his lineage as a rock act it’s hard to see how this would be included here at all if instead it had been done by a newcomer to the scene.

But because it’s Liggins – and because it showcases what “veteran” rock artists have to resort to in order to maintain a commercial footing – you can at least see why Dark Hour Blues slips through the side door. Once the rock audience stops chasing their latest records because they’re out in front of the trends, the artist becomes the ones chasing the audience. Since the rock audiences runs at a much faster rate, the artists wind up chasing a slower moving fan base like the blues.

As the song develops however, you can see that Liggins isn’t taking a hard left turn here, more of a curve in the road. Yes, the structure and dominant attributes are blues-oriented, but some of the arrangement reminds us of his rock credentials as Maxwell Davis’s tenor sax continually tickles your senses, adding the only real melodic salvation to the record and with its different tonal characteristics it helps to keep the song from drowing in abject misery.

Is that enough to objectively qualify this as a rock release? Maybe not, but while sticking exclusively to rock with our coverage remains the primary objective of the site, the edges of the genre – as we take pains to remind you – are always a bit fuzzy and we tend to err on the side of inclusiveness when it comes to those like Liggins whose overall credentials are clearly rock ‘n’ fuckin’ roll, since how they progress individually within the genre’s shifting existence is a story unto itself.

Besides, this record DOES give us one thing we’ve been anxious to hear more of out of Liggins (and which he himself was anxious to showcase more) and that’s his guitar playing. Crude and harsh though his tone may sound and certainly lacking the light dexterous runs that epitomized the best guitarists of the idiom, his work here is nonetheless fairly intense and packs some quick bursts of power into the arrangement and shows he was not merely holding the instrument for promotional purposes.

Yeah, it too is bluesy to a degree, and his lyrics paint a pretty bleak picture that confirms that musical outlook, but his job is dependent on selling records to boost his asking price for live gigs and with rock’s audience getting younger – and his fans from the glory days getting older – it makes sense that he’d follow them to the juke joints from time to time.

Those of us who remain intrinsically tied to whatever forms of rock are currently cutting edge may balk at joining him there, but we can’t begrudge him the quest to keep earning his living playing music of some kind rather than bagging groceries or selling insurance to earn a buck.


My Troubles Come Without Number
We’re going to meet a lot of artists over the years who face the same dilemma as they age out of rock’s prime demographics and they have to decide whether to stick with the genre they were raised on and found their greatest success with, of if they should segue to one that may not ever bring them back to the front lines of a musical revolution, but will allow them to still hear the cheers of an appreciative crowd.

So let Dark Hour Blues serve as a public notice that we WILL still cautiously head down those paths, at least their first few steps before they fully transfer their residency elsewhere, and we will try and respect their choices – whether its Jimmy Liggins, Gatemouth Brown, Floyd Dixon and Peppermint Harris forced to court blues listeners more as time goes on, or Earl Bostic and Joe Thomas returning to jazz circles, or down the road acts like Gene Pitney, Chicago, Whitney Houston and P!nk turning to pop.

But in a way this also hopefully gives some explanation as to why when an artist defies these expectations and stubbornly keeps rocking after their birth certificate and declining sales suggest they should start looking elsewhere, we will celebrate their decision. As Dylan Thomas said “Old age should burn and rave at the close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light”.

That’s why for those at the age when you’re already trudging downhill to the graveyard it pays to remember that you’re only hastening your own demise by steadfastly resisting the new sounds coming along, for once you stop trying to keep up with the times that coffin lid is going to close down on you faster than you’d like.

That Jimmy Liggins falls into the same trap here shouldn’t make you feel any better about your own dire fate, but instead let it act as a warning that the end doesn’t have to be as near as it seems just as long as you refuse to concede to the passing of time and keep rocking to the end.


(Visit the Artist page of Jimmy Liggins for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)