There's nothing bland about "Middle of the Road," former teenage prodigy Eric Gales' 15th studio album ripe with funky blues-rock and blazing guitars.
Lyrically rooted in Gales' sobering up, the disc features guest spots by Gary Clark Jr. and older brother Eugene; a songwriting collaboration with Lauryn Hill; and a Freddie King cover.
Gales, whose playing of a right-handed guitar upside down and left-handed has to be seen to be fully appreciated, also performs bass duties, joined by his wife, LaDonna Gales, on soulful backing vocals.
Opener "Good Time" is secular gospel with a magnetic guitar riff, pure energy and passion. His sobriety and new outlook on life are present already in track two, "Change In Me (The Rebirth)," where Gales makes his mea culpa clear — "I got tired of doin' bad, now I'm doin' good."
Clark Jr. joins Gales on "Boogie Man," a song recorded by King, and Gales said Hill's help was crucial with "Been So Long," another of the songs with a positive mindset.
Gales takes Christone "Kingfish" Ingram, a 16-year-old guitarist from Mississippi, under his wings on "Help Yourself," while his own erstwhile mentor, older brother Eugene Gales, wrote and plays guitar on "Repetition."
Instrumental "Swamp" ends the album, a wild guitar tour-de-force that Gales describes as a "jam band, church-oriented sort of song." Even if taken as an expression of diversity in worship, it will sound just as formidable to non-believers.