Album Review: Dion - Stomping Ground (2021)

By Paul Rigg

A Star-Spangled Stomp! 

Dion has followed up his success with Blues With Friends (2020), by releasing another all-star celebration of his music with Stomping Ground (19 November 2021; Keeping the Blues Alive Records).


It is staggering to think that he formed Dion and The Belmonts in 1957 and has been a key figure in the development of both doo-wop and rock & roll, but that is why he can call up people like
Bruce Springsteen, Patti Scialfa, Billy Gibbons, Rickie Lee Jones, Boz Scaggs, Joe Bonamassa, Peter Frampton, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler and more when he needs a hand. Dion is clearly both greatly admired and revered by his peers.

All but one of the 14 blues-oriented tracks on the album were co-written by Dion and Mike Aquilina, with the octogenarian taking the lead on vocals. Most of the ‘star contributions’ are in the form of guitar parts, but somehow he and his partners seem to create a great creative synergy on every track.  


When I was young, I was always striving for accolades and admiration,” says Dion. “Those were my goals. But when I reached them, they didn’t satisfy. I discovered joy when I leaned to stop caring about all that […] I am grateful to my friends who made ‘Stomping Ground’ with me – and my new friends who are listening.”

The album was preceded by the release of I’ve Got To Get To You, featuring Boz Scaggs along with Joe and Mike Menza; with the father and son team both opting to play Gibson Les Pauls on the accompanying video.    

The album kicks off though with the funky Take It Back, featuring ‘the man who never sleeps’, Joe Bonamassa. Dion soulfully sings “I want you gone, gone, out of my mind”; and makes you believe that even at 82 he is still having his heart broken.


Dancing Girl
has a distinctive Latin touch and showcases Mark Knopfler on his red Strat; while If You Wanna Rock’n’Roll, starring Eric Clapton, is perfectly restrained, as one might expect from such a great guitarist. There Was A Time features Peter Frampton on a track that refers to frustrated love: “There was a time, I looked away, I gave my fears the final say”; I am not ‘looking away’, however, when I note that that’s quite a tryptic of artists!

Billy Gibbons steps up on My Stomping Ground; while Patti Scialfa showcases her gospel vocal talents on Angels In The Alleyways, and Bruce Springsteen adds harmonica. Keb’ Mo’ guests on
Hendrix’s Red House, which is the only cover on the album. The Amercian blues artist perhaps has the challenge of the album with this guitar piece, but uses his slide to great effect.


The album closes with I’ve Been Watching, on which Dion is joined by Rickie Lee Jones. The lyrics - “Looking at the red sky like I’ve never seen it before, Everything is looking like the hint of something more […] I’ve been watching the sun go down, I’ve seen miracles all around,” – perhaps finds Dion reflecting on his life, and appreciating each day.

It must be wonderful for Dion to have the stature to be able to call on so many friends and enjoy making music with them. But it must be even more satisfying to see his creative vision working so well, and to be able to make it coherent. This album represents one more great achievement for the American legend.