Mescal Canyon (label)
20 June 2018 (released)
10 June 2018
Wily Bo Walker writes with a remarkable voice, painting sound images so dark you need to sit closer and closer to the speakers to really get the essence of them. This is not music to be listened to lightly or carelessly.
And yet it is music and songs that have a most enticing and invigorating heart to them, songs that tell stories and could all be Coen Brothers movies in their own right.
Wily Bo is that rare thing – a British Blues musician inducted into the US Blues Hall Of Fame and not only isn’t Eric Clapton but also isn’t a slavish Stevie Ray Vaughan acolyte. Together with other talented Brits such as E.D Brayshaw, Danny Flam and Karena K he has essentially created his own genre of the Blues with touches of swing, country, jazz and soul adding to his original voice and style.
Most of the tracks here have been out before but the mixes are new and the album as a whole stands up effortlessly.
You get a version of ‘Motel Blues’ that opens with a mandolin and dobro before Walker’s vocal emerges alongside pleading for company in his lonely motel room. The number is sad, lonely but captures the essence of the wandering musician immaculately.
‘Storm Warning’ has an intense feeling, somehow capturing the feeling of dead air and humidity that happens just before the storm hits – how do you capture the sound of the birds not singing?
One of my favourite tracks here or anywhere else is the incomparable ‘Walking With The Devil’. Walker’s voice taking on the gravelly tones of Dr John at his peak and Brayshaw’s guitar screaming a solo while the voodoo rhythm and the whispered chant pulls you deeper and deeper into the song = hypnotic and all encompassing so that it is a shock to emerge at the end.
‘Long Way To Heaven’ features the Brown Sisters of Chicago Gospel Choir vocals. An immense number that fills you soul with the story of Johnny & Louise. The horns really take the number up a notch or three.
Walker summons Tom Waits for ‘Moon Over Indigo’ and pairs him with Kenny Rampton on trumpet to create the most noir number I’ve ever heard.
The album closes on ‘Light At The End Of The Tunnel’, written by Karena K – a beautiful slow Blues that acts as a perfect closer to the album.
This is the first of three albums planned r this year and I cannot wait to hear the others but as it is, it stands as a stunning album, full of textures and brimming with soul.