Its hard to believe its been 17 years since The Steve Miller Band released its last studio album, Wide River, back in 1993, probably because Steve Miller has been a yearly figure on the touring circuit all that time. But despite the fact Miller never stopped songwriting during his nearly two decade-long hiatus, it may come as a surprise to find out his new album, Bingo!, is actually a collection of classic R&B and Blues covers that influenced him while growing up as a Texas teenager.
Thats not to say Steve Miller fans are going to be disappointed with the lack of new material; Bingo! has definitely embraced the blues this time around, but Millers own distinctive sound is still intact. From the wah-wah-pedaled twang of the opening song “Hey Yeah,” to the Joe Satriani-helmed “Sweet Soul Vibe,” which recalls classics such as “True Fine Love,” Miller keeps the songs familiar and breezy, each skipping along effortlessly into the next. Millers voice remains almost as easy and innocuous as it did back in the 1970s, and any gruffness that has come through with age (the man is pushing 70, after all) suits his new twist on the blues.
Unlike his albums of the past though, where Millers voice usually held the spotlight alone, Bingo! has him dueting with the Checkmates big-voiced singer Sonny Charles. The Las Vegas-based artist, who has been touring with The Steve Miller Band since 2008, adds a lot of soul and credibility to the album, especially on the classic “Tramp,” sprouting such snappy banter as “I just bought me a liquor store with a hot tub, and guess what girls, it’s ladies’ night.”
While Bingo! isnt breaking any new ground for Steve Miller, thats not necessarily a bad thing. My only caveat is that the album clocks in at a rather short 32 minutes. However, theres talk of another album coming out next year, as Miller ended up recording 42 songs in total while he laid down this album at Skywalker Ranch, but it remains to be seen if any of them will explore new material. For now, Bingo! is a mellow, soulful homage to the classics and the perfect background music to any summer barbeque or sun-filled road trip. It would even make a nice belated Father’s Day present for your dad – just remember to give me credit.