Mayall has hung tough as an artist, but he's also made the transition from mercurial to mellow. He was once a bloke who changed lineups and formats like socks, constantly moving between small groups and large ensembles. Over the last two decades, however, Mayall's band has largely been a stable affair. The masterful quartet shines on 2005's Road Dogs -- as does Mayall's knack for laying down blues tunes of a very personalized nature.
In the early days, each Bluesbreakers album featured a new lead guitarist: Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, and so on. And each one of these axemen invariably covered a Freddie King tune. Mayall has owned up to that cumulative debt with this year's In the Palace of the King, taking on tunes penned by or closely associated with the Texas guitar master. But this time around it's Mayall's longtime mate Buddy Whittington providing the required guitar flash.
How has Mayall survived so long? A line from Road Dogs nails it: "The blues pulled me through."