At age 69, Peter Frampton can savor many epic memories. The spectacular success of the landmark album “Frampton Comes Alive!” His rare combination of rock star allure and rock-solid guitar virtuosity. His opportunity to record and perform with David Bowie, B.B. King and even a few Beatles.
But for Frampton, what lies ahead has always been what matters most, especially after his diagnosis four years ago with inclusion body myositis (IBM), an incurable muscle disease. The disease is progressing slowly, though, giving him time to still make music on the road and in his Studio Phenix in Nashville.
That’s where “All Blues,” which drops on June 7, was recorded. As the title suggests, the album is Frampton’s homage to the great players and songs that defined the blues for him and so many other young British musicians in the 1960s.
Peter Frampton performing in Cincinnati. (Photo: Amy Harris)
“But unlike Eric Clapton and Peter Green, I didn’t actually grow up playing the blues,” he points out. “It’s a very seductive style, especially on guitar. And because everybody was starting to sound a lot like Eric, I decided to go on a tangent and start listening more to jazz: Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Django Reinhardt and a very young George Benson.”
Still, no rock guitarist completely shakes off the blues. So in 2017, when opening for Steve Miller, the two artists began jamming in that style during their shows. Back on the road the following year, Miller encouraged his tour partner to start adding his own vocals to these tunes.
“It became a foregone conclusion that I was going to do a blues album” at that point, Frampton says.
It was critical from day one that “All Blues” would be recorded without layering parts separately as bands often do.
“Now, there are no rules when you’re making records,” he says. “Sometimes you get incredible recordings that are built upward track by track over a drum machine or a click. You can’t say that’s wrong. I just think I bring more to the table when I’m not concentrating just on guitar or vocals, when we’re doing it all together at the same time.”
The result speaks for itself. Backed by his band and buttressed by Larry Carlton, Sonny Landreth, Steve Morse and other stellar guests, “All Blues” captures Frampton at full technical and emotional power. Some of that, he says, stems from the fact that he approaches the genre with a wider perspective than many who have been steeped exclusively in the blues.
“I’m not a blues player. I’m not a jazz player. I’m me,” he insists, laughing.
But Frampton cut “All Blues” and his other recent sessions with a new awareness of time’s passage, which inspires its own level of intensity.
“This disease has definitely made me think about the future,” he acknowledges. “I want to record as much as possible in the shortest space of time because I don’t know how long I have. This is a slow-moving but progressive condition. It’s kind of sped up over the last six to nine months too, which kind of scared me. That’s when I said to Ken Levitan, my manager, that we ought to be careful about how far out we book shows.”
Though he hopes to tour Europe one more time after this year’s American jaunt, Frampton admits that “I might have worries about this time next year. But I’m still playing great. I’m still recording. When I can’t play at the level I want people to hear me play, that’s when I’ll stop. Because I’m a perfectionist.”
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