It is a brilliantly sunny day, the car roof is down and your neck scarf is blowing, perfectly in time, with the wind and exquisite guitar riffs of Quinn Sullivan’s latest offering Midnight Highway…
At least that’s the image one envisions as the swaggering chords of album opener Something For Me buzz across the speakers, whilst transporting you to the days of dirty southern-blues rock in midtown Memphis.
So, does Midnight Highway live up to the hype? If you’re looking for the short answer, yes.
There’s never been any doubt that Sullivan has always been a masterfully skilled guitar player since day one. Buddy Guy reinforced this when he said, “Players like Quinn come along once in a lifetime,” but this record not only showcases a vastly more mature Sullivan, in comparison to the 13 year old boy we heard on his previous release, Getting There, but like the title suggests, this record takes you on a wonderful journey, venturing through the teen’s original blues and rock roots to the more recently explored worlds of R&B, folk, funk and Americana.
As you listen to the twists and turns of this album, it fast becomes obvious that those five years spent honing his craft, be it his evidently cultivated vocabulary or improved melodic vocals and songwriting skills, clearly worked their magic, indefinitely benefiting both parties equally.
Following the layered sounds of Something For Me, the record takes a sharp turn towards contemporary Nashville pop on Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming. A track that’s huge production and terrific vocals, lends a large nod to the likes of John Mayer.
Title track Midnight Highway a slower melodic blues number, is a definite early highlight on the record, as Quinn’s pure and dulcet vocals shine alongside his slick and mature guitar work that blends stunningly with the lush backing band and prominence of the hammond organ.
The rock and roll guitar-fuelled swagger of Crazy Into You, inclusive of a big hook and all, lends a strong nod to Quinn’s label-sharing buddy Beth Hart, while the sweet innocence of Eyes For You, an engaging acoustic number the teen penned himself, exhibits his ever-growing maturity, and outlook on love.
She Gets Me and Going are both heartfelt pieces that continue the balladic section of the record, as Quinn allows his skilful guitar playing to momentarily take a back seat, giving his beautifully honest lyrics a few minutes of there own in the spotlight.
Bonus tracks Rocks and Graveyard Stone, catapult the listener back to Sullivan’s funkier, blues-rock roots in the best possible way, while the foot stomping keyboard motif, hurriedly phrased hook and falsetto vocals of Lifting Off seem the most out of place on the record, it does honour the stylistic diversity this album so brilliantly encapsulates.
If, by this stage you need anymore proof that Sullivan bear’s superb musicianship, his stunning rendition of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps, is the answer you’ve been looking for. Combining all that makes this song a beautiful classic, with his own signature touch and empowering vocals.
A brilliant beginning of the end, as the record fades out to the echoing notes of Buffalo Nickel, the ’let it all out’ guitar jam that one last time reminds you of his greatest, ever-impressive skill – guitar playing.
Midnight Highway out now via Mascot / Provogue.