By Michael Popke
Leslie West almost didn't live to see the release of “Unusual Suspects,” a solid star-studded record that doesn’t sound like the work of a 65-year-old. The Mountain man has diabetes, and complications from that disease forced the life-saving amputation of his lower right leg in June 2011.
But this album — a proud mix of boogie blues and rock with a slew of guest guitarists — ranks among the man’s finest work. The brawny country-rocker “Mudflap Mama” could even be a current hit on country radio, with Slash replacing his signature top hat with a cowboy hat. “Standing On A Higher Ground,” featuring Billy F. Gibbons, emerges as a bluesy ZZ Top-style track, and Steve Lukather, Joe Bonamassa and Zak Wylde also make notable contributions while complementing West’s big guitar sound.
West remains a powerhouse vocalist, too, but his boozy, understated performance on the piano ballad “Legend” emerges as the standout track here.