Diesel (Mark Lizotte) returns with a vital and exhilarating collection of blues classics and rarities, playing every instrument on his first completely solo album, Alone With Blues. The first single, ‘Six Steel Strings’, co-written with Ross Wilson (Daddy Cool, Mondo Rock) is out now. Alone With Blues will be released on 16 July.

On Alone With Blues, Diesel pays tribute to giants like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush, Sam Cooke, Leadbelly, and Magic Sam. It is 11 tracks of veteran virtuosity from Mark Lizotte, the multiple ARIA award-winning singer and guitarist, augmented by double bass, blues harp, cello, percussion and more, all played and recorded solo at Diesel’s own Sydney studio during the 2020 COVID go-slow.

The lead single ‘Six Steel Strings’ had, until now, been lost for 30 years. “It was 1991”, says Diesel, “I think Ross (Wilson) saw me as a young bluesman in a long tradition. He asked about my background and put details into the lyrics, a tongue-in-cheek take on my life story in demo form that we knocked up together in an hour. It was only rediscovered when he moved house last year, and the timing couldn’t have been better because it’s such a perfect fit.”

What began of necessity offered its own challenges: how to best record music that you’ve always considered a collaborative artform, namely the blues, when you’re alone? Diesel’s method was “to go deep into each song, I worked hard to capture what’s special and hypnotic about each, and I was hell-bent on getting those subtleties into the grooves. Use the right guitar, the right sounds…I had to go to school a bit!”

Alone With Blues resonates with memories of the late great Chris Wilson, Diesel’s partner on Wilson Diesel’s Short Cool Ones LP, itself celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2021. Both feature Willie Dixon and Jimmy Reed classics, while the new ‘All Your Love’ is a Magic Sam barnstormer that had been considered for inclusion a quarter of a century ago. Mostly, though, it’s all about the blues harp: “I put a lot of effort into my harmonica playing on this record”, says Diesel, “Chris pushed me to play more harp, which was difficult when I was standing next to him, y’know? But he was always encouraging so what I play on this record, I play for Chris and for Michael Gudinski too, he’s the one that put Chris and I together in the first place.”

Another standout element is the supple and rhythmic double bass, used to effect on ‘Work Song’ (Cannonball Adderley) and a haunting version of Sam Cooke’s ‘Lost And Lookin’; “Sam is a benchmark singer for me”, says Diesel, “if there’s any one person I want to sound like, it’s him. His phrasing is insane, immaculate.”

With Alone With Blues, Diesel has conjured up one of his most thrilling and affecting albums yet.

Fans will see him play tracks from the new album onstage when the Greatest Hits/Alone With Blues tour begins on 16 July at The Factory, Marrickville, before heading throughout New South Wales. If you have ever witnessed a solo set from Diesel, you’d know it is delicate and visceral at once, a pure exposé of an artist still exploring the possibilities of his 2 instruments, at times sounding as bombastic as a whole band, all the while making the most of the intricacies of a theatre environment.