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514NOclJmbL. SL110 The opening line of THE STEVE MILLER BAND’s latest bio proclaims that “The Gangster is Back!” – a statement that is much more than simple record label PR hype. On his first album since 1993’s WIDE RIVER, Miller and Co. take a trip back in time to recapture the essence of Miller’s time in the Chicago blues scene, and turn out a collection that makes you wonder what took them so long?

While guitarists like Eric Clapton, for example, have long-embraced their early blues influences through revamped versions of the standards they honed their chops on in smokey blues rooms, Miller has taken over 40 years to compile such a collection – not counting his jazz/blues covers album BORN 2B BLUE (released in 1988). 

Recorded at STAR WARS overlord GEORGE LUCAS’ Skywalker Ranch, BINGO! is one-half of the output of a marathon recording session that yielded two full albums worth of material. The first release as part of a partnership with ROADRUNNER RECORDS/LOUD & PROUD on his own SPACE COWBOY RECORDS, BINGO! is a gem that shines brightly in an overcrowded musical landscape.

Kicking off with “Hey Yeah,” a song Miller first recalls hearing performed by Jimmie Vaughan on STRANGE PLEASURE, BINGO! gets off to a rockin’ start that grooves and sways, encouraging listeners to clap along with the chorus breaks. Miller’s affection for Vaughan continues with the third track “Don’t Cha Know?” (and later with “Sweet Soul Vibe”). The BB KING standard “Rock Me Baby” gets an upgrade here, along with “You Got Me Dizzy,” a JIMMY REED number that Miller cites as a favorite from his High School days. Together these songs are but a few highlights of an album devoid of a weak cut.

BINGO! is a perfect summer album – capturing the good-time feeling of blues fests and barbeques, best played loud in the company of friends.

With 10 songs clocking in at just over 32-minutes, BINGO! leaves you craving for more – a thirst that might be quenched when a companion album from the same sessions arrives sometime in 2011.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars