Break the Chain — Doug MacLeod


Blues master Doug MacLeod and audiophiles have had a love affair for several decades. A damn good one. Blues, for musical and/or acoustic reasons, lends itself to quality recordings. Muddy Waters, Philadelphia Jerry Ricks, and a host of others, are blessed both sides of the microphone. We audiophiles and blues fans are the richer for it. And we expect a lot from our ‘own’ Doug MacLeod.  

MacLeod was producing legendary audiophile blues records before receiving the fairly recent Reference Recordings benediction. Come To Find on AudioQuest (my copy is on the magnificent LP) and You Can't Take My Blues also on AudioQuest  (mine is on a superb JVC XRCD Reissue) are but two recorded in the 90s that will stand the test of time. Both, like this fabulous new Reference Recording, highlight MacLeod’s ‘storytelling’ singing style, with his penchant for toe tapping, up tempo rhythms interspersed with soulful songs. 

Break the Chain does not do musically what the title implies. We have brilliant consistency. Here, you’ll find eleven songs and a ‘holler’ (story). Audiophiles will especially like the spoken voice track as they are so difficult to get right on recordings.

Blues master, Doug MacLeod.  

Blues master, Doug MacLeod.  

As the Reference team was together in Marin County’s Skywalker Studios, including recording engineer marvel Prof. Keith O. Johnson and diva dynamo producer, Jan Mancuso, the sound on all twelve tracks is exceptional — lifelike, dynamic yet translucent enough to get the musicians’ most subtle ‘slippin and slidin’’. As a recording, it’s typical of the Johnson signature — lifelike dynamics and amazing instrumental and vocal timbres. As I’m akin to saying on reviews from this team, another winner. 

Like all great musicians, MacLeod surrounds himself with excellence including son Jesse, also a singer, and with solid musical genes. The musicians are fabulous players and are recorded to perfection. I’ve never heard basses recorded with such consistency on one artist’s recordings over decades with different record companies. 

My flute prof always used to tell me ‘you play as you are’. Personality cannot help but come through. You can’t hide behind the notes. I met MacLeod a few years ago at Denver’s Rocky Mountain Audio Festival. We chatted for sometime about our lives as musicians, studies, etc. He never wanted to talk about himself. An incredibly kind and modest man. These qualities through the lens of his very interesting life can be heard vividly on Break the Chain. Very highly recommended. 

On This Recording

  1. Goin’ Down To The Roadhouse
  2. Mr Bloozeman
  3. Lonesome Feeling
  4. Travel On
  5. LA – The Siren In The West
  6. One For Tampa Red
  7. What The Blues Means To Me
  8. This Road I’m Walking
  9. Who’s Driving This Bus?
  10. Church Street Serenade
  11. Going Home
  12. Break The Chain