It had been ages since Francis Monkman's last solo album. This one came out shyly, not even listing the participating musicians. The founder of the seminal progressive rock group Curved Air delivered a surprising disc, very guitar-oriented for a classically trained keyboardist. Of course, the musician's interest in a wide selection of instruments has been documented as early as Curved Air's heydays, but this bluesy release will surprise many fans. What most of you probably want to know is if the style of music -- or at least the spirit -- of the old group still lives in his songs. The answer is yes. About half of the tracks on 21st Century Blues fall in the prog rock/art rock category, with some -- like "Another Day" and "Heard in Time" -- turning out quite strong. The other half take the shape of blues-rock numbers -- deceptively straightforward but otherwise well-performed. Monkman invested a lot in production: effects, multiple tracks, sonic textures, and more. Yet, the mixing brings up a lot of questions, like: Why are the vocals often kept very dry and distant? Original Curved Air drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa makes a guest appearance for the nostalgic. This is not album-of-the-year material, but fans of the group should appreciate it and casual listeners will find enough good material to listen to the whole 80 minutes.