Wily Bo Walker sees through Almost Transparent Blues

Wily Bo Walker (Wily is pronounced the same as the coyote) is from Glasgow and yet has been a little overlooked in his homeland and the rest of the UK. In the US, however, he has not only been recognized but was inducted as Master Blues Artist in the Blues Hall of Fame in 2016. Trying to sum up Wily’s career is difficult due to its scope and I couldn’t think of a better way of putting it than this from his own website …”With a career spanning more than 40 years, Wily Bo works across many styles and genres; Blues, Gospel, Soul, Classic R&B, Jazz, Rock and Americana. A solo artist, songwriter, composer and performer noted for his characterful vocals and swaggering ‘live’ performances: from his huge New York-based ‘blues and soul review’ productions and recording projects to his UK based, New Orleans themed, ’Rattlin’ Bone Theatre Show’, from his solo acoustic swamp’n’stomp shows through to his stripped-down 4 piece rockin’ Blues and Americana themed ‘Wily Bo Walker Band’”. Wily is one busy man plus, if you check his site out, there is a massive amount of stuff planned for the rest of this year and into 2019. You will also find reviews of his previous work elsewhere on Bluesdoodles.
This latest release, however, is a collection of his work from across an extensive back catalogue. Almost Transparent Blues is perhaps inspired, in part at least, by a 1976 novel, written by Ryu Murakami; Almost Transparent Blue is about the author and his friends trapped in a cycle of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll during the 1970s. There is a German-based artist, Bjorn Magnusson, who has released an album of that title (in the singular)… this, however, is Wily Bo and it is most definitely blues (plural).
It all kicks off with the New Orleans sound of Chattahoochee Coochee Man; a swinging big band style blues written by Donnie McCormick and is illuminated by some great bluesy electric guitar from Geoff Slater. (Donnie died in 2009 leaving a legacy of blues from his compositions and drumming appearances: he collaborated with Duane Allman and Sean Costello amongst others and was a founding member of the early 70s band Eric Quincy Tate). Loan Me a Dime, composed by Fenton Robinson, is a plea to contact an old flame and is steeped in slow blues majesty. Robinson was a noted blues guitarist and this, his signature tune, was first recorded in 1967. In this incarnation, we get subtle mellifluous backing vocals from Karena K and a superb solo from E D Brayshaw. I Want To Know is a Walker original with Brayshaw again supplying some wonderful guitar over Wily’s storytelling. Storm Warning takes us into blues-rock territory in this Brayshaw (and Lesley Brayshaw) composition. Great arrangement prevents it from becoming too typical and the fluent guitar solo is exceptional. Next up is a Loundon Wainwright III song. Motel Blues has E D on Dobro and mandolin and is pure country blues in this reading, but with the inclusion of another inspired E D solo. (Alvin Lee does a superb version too). Did I Forget is a Wily song…in every sense. Blues and proper R ‘n’ B clash, then talk, then go to bed together! Ron Bertolet adds a sensuous sax to suit the mood. Fool For You comes from the pen of a Bahamian musician Gladstone ‘Stone’ McEwan. In the hands of Wily and E D, it becomes a fabulous R’n’B Blues song in the nature of Moody/Marsden. A Wily composition, Walking With the Devil; here with Graham Hine on slide evoking a little Santana while Wily channels his inner Howlin’ Wolf. The song swamps us with voodoo, jazz and funk and a blues-infused slide guitar to wrap together a brilliant fusion of sounds and styles. Long Way To Heaven has a piano intro with The Brown Sisters providing choral vocals before the growling Wily cuts in. A lovely song that comes across as Joe Cocker meets Van the Man and it would fit right into their sets too: it is that good. Moon Over Indigo is a heart wrenching soulful blues with a Satchmo touch. Light At The End of the Tunnel has Keith Mack contributing some really tasty guitar work over a slow soulful blues. The title sounds optimistic until the line that tells you the light went actually goes out. Sad, beautifully realised and played by all concerned.
In summary, then, this album is like walking through 11 different rooms, to be greeted by an ever-varying group of top-class musicians and have them playing just for you: so if you like blues, soul, R ‘n’ B and rock there is something for you in every track… it provides a meticulously crafted and enjoyable journey.

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting:

  1. Chattahoochee Coochee Man
  2. Loan Me A Dime
  3. I Want To Know
  4. Storm Warning
  5. Motel Blues
  6. Did I Forget
  7. Fool For You
  8. Walking With The Devil
  9. Long Way To Heaven
  10. Moon Over Indigo
  11. Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Musicians: (there are a plethora of musicians playing on this album; I have tried to list them all…apologies if I have missed anyone or one (or more) of their instruments)
Wily Bo Walker: vocals, guitar
E D Brayshaw: guitars, drums, Hammond, backing vocals
Geoff Slater: guitar
Pete Farugia: guitar
Keith Mack: guitar
Max Saidi: drums
Eran Asias: drums, percussion
Benjy King: keyboards
Ruslan Agababayev: keyboards
Karena K: backing vocals, percussion, keyboards
Clarky: bass, fiddle
Tommy Lee Rhodes: bass
Tom Welsch: bass
Ron Bertolet: saxophones
Mark Gatz: saxophone
Kenny Rampton, Michael McGovern, Tony Gorruso: trombone
Danny Flam: trombone, trumpet
Cenovia Cummins, Louise Owen: violin
Alissa Smith: Viola
Laura Bontrager: Cello
Ant: metronomic Cajon
The Brown Sisters of Chicago: vocals
(Adrienne Brown, Andrea Brown, Vanessa Brown-Dukes)

 

Wily Bo Walker sees through Almost Transparent Blues

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