MIDWAY THROUGH "Healin' Ground," guitar-slinger and ex-Nighthawk Jimmy Thackery unveils an amusing tune he co-wrote, a Jimmy Reed-meets-Willie Dixon blues shuffle dubbed "Upside of Lonely." Crooning over a loping backbeat, Thackery sounds like a man who can't stop counting his newfound blessings: "I can stay up and play my guitar / And the groceries go twice as far / I don't know why nobody told me about the upside of lonely."
Funny, though, that this song should pop up on an album that's the product of a collaboration between the bluesman and some Nashville cats, including songwriter and producer Gary Nicholson. The extra input is welcome from a songwriting perspective since that has never been Thackery's strength, but anyone looking for a blizzard of blues guitar riffs will be better off thumbing through his back catalogue.
Of course, Thackery isn't exactly shy when it comes to displaying his exceptional technique here. In addition to three instrumentals, including the imaginatively warped surf ride "A Shot in the Dark," there's an evocative slide guitar tribute to Muddy Waters, whose "Can't Lose What You Never Had" serves as the album's coda.
Still, the emphasis Nicholson places on songwriting is what sets "Healin' Ground" apart. By co-penning most of the tunes on the album, he has helped Thackery assemble a sturdy collection of songs that's likely to augment his familiar blues repertoire for years to come.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Saturday at the State Theatre.