Fat Toad (label)
28 January 2022 (released)
03 January 2022
It’s amazing to think that Wille & The Bandits have been extant for 12 or so years, producing 5 studio and 1 live album with the original line up.
In 2019, bassist Andrew Naumann and drummer/percussionist Matthew Brooks left and vocalist/guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Wille Edwards expanded the band to its four-piece form as they are now. This is the first album with this line up and to say that it is strongly anticipated would be understating it.
OK, lets cut to the chase. From the opening brutal, fuzzed riff of ‘Caught In The Middle’ my ear was grabbed and it didn’t let up until the last, beautiful moments of ‘Solid Ground’. This isn’t just a fine Wille & The Bandits album, it is a stunning example of roots/rock – great writing, exquisite musicianship and brilliant production.
I have been a follower of the band for a number of years and I really wondered what they would lose when Brooks & Naumann left, but the new guys - Harry Mackaill – Backing vocals, bass guitar, synthesizer, Matthew Gallagher – Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes, piano, Mellotron, guitar, backing vocals, Tom Gilkes – Drums and percussion – are top quality. The writing sounds fresh and confident, the playing working very much as a band and there is a wonderful sense that they are free – and able - to play in any genre that suits the music.
The album was recorded at Sawmills Studios, under the hand of the legendary John Cornfield, very much to the joy of Wille Edwards:
“It had always been a dream for me to record at Sawmills, I was devastated at the thought that another piece of music history was being repurposed away from a place of inspiration for the arts.”
“However,” continues Wille, “there was a suggestion of fate when a friend took me night fishing at a secret spot, that just happened to be in the Foy River, looking across to this wonderfully situated building; one that we all know, even if we don’t realise it, from a childhood of reading Wind in the Willows. This set me on a hunt to find out if there was still a chance to record one last album at Sawmills with the man behind all the iconic albums recorded there - Mr John Cornfield. To fund this enterprise, we turned to our unbelievable fans who made the dream happen, and who we are eternally grateful, too”
The music is loaded with fire, dreams and no little anger. It was recorded during extraordinary times but the lockdown, while stopping the band touring constantly, gave them the opportunity to ‘hole up’ at Sawmills and work on this remarkable set of songs.
They range from incredibly danceable rock with an Allman Brothers edge – ‘Will We Ever’ asking the question “will we ever be the same again” – to the darkly epic - ‘Without You’, facing the prospect of carrying on after losing a loved one and featuring an incredibly harsh and soulful vocal from Wille, incredibly done in one take, and truly heart-rending – or the gentle and beautiful – ‘Solid Ground’ a prayer that the world should be there for our children and featuring an almost ‘Albatross’ beat and Peter Green quality solo from Wille.
There isn’t a single weak moment on the album, 12 tracks that individually stay in the memory and together form a staggering piece of modern music.