Wish For What You Want
Billy Walton Band
Wish For What You Want
Contemporary blues is all about promotion of the individual band stars, invariably vocalists and guitarists, isn't it? Not always, and certainly not here, where the key is in in the 'band' element of the artist name. Nominally, it's Walton's show, but atmosphere and arrangements suggest that he just happens to be the focus, making Wish For What You Want a work of exemplary collaboration and buy-in by all concerned. These are musicians having fun as they create, audible in the end product in which the self-appointed blues police may even suspect an offence has been committed. Too bad.
The title of the band’s previous album Crank It Up!, with its sleeve pic of a disintegrating amplifier, led many, me included, to make assumptions about its contents. On listening, however, Crank It Up! followed the New Jersey soul direction dabbled in on the previous collection, Neon City, rather than the guitar-heavy blues which predominated. And so it continues here, with no overblown vocal or guitar histrionics, or superfluous instrumental fat. Everything is in its place and not a note, lick or nuance is wasted.
The smoothness of the recording gives the impression of its having been laid down and mixed as frequency layers rather than individual instrument tracks, giving the rhythm section a seamless feel, as if bass and drums were a single warm, organic instrument. To top that off, since the emphasis is on the songs themselves rather than the promotion of a frontman as a guitar god or vocal viceroy, the band’s more introspective soul side again muscles to the fore.
A sympathetic and emotional treatment of Willy Deville/Doc Pomus’s ‘Just To Walk That Little Girl Home’, is typical of the feel and groove which pervade Wish For What You Want, whilst the Springsteen-esque groove and delivery of ‘It Don't Matter’ confirm further Walton’s well-chosen direction. Those years backing Southside Johnny have left their very welcome mark, and Walton’s old boss is featured on the steady, gentle, blues ballad-like groove of 'Blues Comes A-Knockin', drawing marvellous evocative harp squalls. The honky-tonk piano intro of ‘Till Tomorrow’ gives way to a Warren Haynes territory, held-back soulful blues with tasteful horn dynamics, further illustrating that the song is the thing.
Of course, straightforward blues cuts feature too in the delightful horn lines of 'Forgive And Forget', with astounding interplay between Walton’s guitar and the brass section in the coda. The title track too, is made of the same stuff, courtesy of a rumbling, busy William Paris bassline.
'Come On Up' differs yet again, with its drop-in/out dynamics contrasting with the insistent chugging rhythm, and Petty-ish backing vocals, unusual and refreshing in this context. With its organic-toned bottleneck, somewhere between dobro and electric, 'Worried Blues' is a simple riff- based 12-bar over which Walton advises, "Don't let them get you down".
As long as recordings are as spiritually-uplifting as this, there’s little chance of that.
Date added: Mar 31, 2015
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