I get, literally, dozens of offerings from British Blues artists with ‘interesting’ names, trying to channel the ghosts of Stevie Ray Vaughan or Duane Allman and in the main they are about as interesting as yesterday’s pizza – step forward ‘Armadillo Joe’ from Doncaster and ‘Holey Pete’ from Margate. So when I get an album by ‘Wily Bo Walker’ and see that they are a) English and b) claim to write ‘cinematic storylines’ my hackles immediately go on alert. But as they are sent to me by someone I trust to have an ear and much experience I put my prejudices aside and prepare to waste forty minutes of my life and find that ‘Wily Bo Walker’ actually has a voice and can write some great American images and together with his old friend E D Brayshaw makes music that is more than worth forty minutes of my life.
The opener ‘Storm Warning’ (written by Brayshaw & Brayshaw) is a blistering soundscape of Blues/rock with Brayshaw’s guitar screaming and Walker’s gruff and hard vocals telling the story of a new American dustbowl, Karena K providing backing vocals to really drive the emotion. The guitar solo at the end is terrific, exciting and picking the listener up time and again, ebbing and flowing like the storm itself.
Wily Bo supplies tracks that have a softer feel, soulful and rolling; ‘I Want to Know’ very much feeling like it is steeped in New Orleans (his vocals have a touch of Dr John crossed with Robbie Robertson) while he can also turn his hand to a love song as he does on ‘September Red’.
They do a superb version of Loudon Wainwright’s ‘Motel Blues’, giving it all the seediness and desperation it deserves but somehow keeping the sense of pleading passion it describes.
My personal favourite is their version of Fenton Robinson’s ‘Someone Lend Me A Dime’ – a standard on the Blues circuit but they make it sound dark and down at heel without the usual overwrought ‘passion’. Brayshaw’s guitar is subtle and even when he tears out the solo he doesn’t lose the character of the song.
It is a very good album, loaded with great playing and equally fine vocals – it has flaws but not enough to overshadow the qualities.