Aerosmith Sings the Blues

Tyler scats and wails on covers records

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"It feels like we all took a break, went to summer camp and got laid for the first time," says Steven Tyler, describing Aerosmith's new blues-covers album, tentatively titled Honkin' On Bobo, due in January.

Working with longtime producer Jack Douglas, the man behind 1975's classic Toys in the Attic, the band has tackled blues standards such as "Baby, Please Don't Go," "Roadrunner," "Broke-Down Engine" and "I'm Ready." The album will also feature a handful of new songs, including "Into the Grind," where Tyler scats and plays piano.

All the tracks, however, sound like Aerosmith. "We're not blues purists," says guitarist Joe Perry. "We're just reinterpreting songs that made the hair on the back of our necks stand up when we heard them."

"I think Aerosmith has always been a blues-based band," Tyler agrees. "When music hit me the most -- when I was nine, ten, eleven -- it was always that blues from Mississippi that only came on at night . . . the devil's music. So we figured, instead of just putting one or two bluesy songs on our record -- like 'Big Ten Inch' and 'Reefer Head Woman' -- we would do an album that was geared towards what was in our gut . . . of all the stuff the label said, 'It sounds like a bunch of blues riffs, it's no good.'"

The band credits Douglas with helping them get back to their old dirty sound. "Jack is a big advocate of not singing in a perfectly clean room," Tyler says. "Instead, he wants us to scream it from the bathroom, or outside from the car."

Perry also gets in on the action, taking over the lead vocals on "Back Back Train." "I think I've managed to figure out where my range is," he says. "Singing with one of the best rock singers in your band is nothing less than daunting. I really love to do it, but it works well on some things and not so well on others."

But Aerosmith is hardly striving for perfection here. "We like to get things that seem to be just right," Tyler says, "and fuck 'em up good."