No Fret/VizzTone Label Group VTNF-07
13 songs – 56 minutes
Hailing from Long Beach Island, N.J., on the music-rich Jersey Shore, Billy Walton delivers a stylish blend of blues, rock and soul that might remind you of Bruce Springsteen or Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes one minute and a modern electric blues band or a deep soul horn band based in Memphis or New Orleans the next.
Billing themselves as a rockin’, blues-flavored R&B band, Walton — who possesses a pleasant, powerful and smoky voice and solid, well-controlled guitar chops — and his musical cohorts demonstrate those skills from the jump on this pleasing, fresh release, the sixth in their catalog since emerging in 2007. In addition to being hometown favorites, they’ve also built a large following in the United Kingdom, where they’ve toured more than 20 times.
The core band includes William Paris on bass and harmonic vocals and Johnny D’Angelo on drums with Sam Sherman and Eric Safka on keyboards. They’re augmented by Jack Gist on harmonica and a revolving horn section that includes Matt Fischer, Ian Gray and Frank Rein on trombone, Rick Rein on trumpet and Sean Marks, Jon Shaw, Joey Stann, Greg Wilson and Tom Petraccaro on saxes.
Soul Of A Man was laid down at the Aala Recording in Maui, Hawaii, a studio that’s produced albums for The Cult, Kris Kristofferson and Jimi Bott, among others. Additional tracks were captured at Cambridge Sound in Philadelphia and Organic Sounds in Long Beach. The resulting material bears a strong resemblance to what keeps folks up and boogying on hot summer nights at the Shore.
The release contains 11 originals written by band members and two covers. The fast shuffle, “Save The Last Dance,” opens the action and quickly sets the tone as it delivers a message to a lady treating the singer like a fool that she’d better reserve the final song on the dance floor for him. Walton’s brief single-note runs during vocal breaks drive home the request, and the horns percolate throughout.
A horn chart opener delivers a Big Easy feel and power throughout as the band erupts into the blazing rocker, “I Don’t Know,” which wonders about the direction a meandering relationship is heading, before the band slows slightly for “Hell n Highwater,” which provides inspiration to a man born with a silver spoon, but now working for a living.
The mood changes dramatically for the soulful shuffle “Something Better,” which questions the well-being of a former lover and requesting a second chance after not hearing from her for ages, and the quiet, tender blues ballad “My Little Bird,” which encourages a loved one to spread her wings and fly high until they meet again.
The band fires out of the gate again for “Let Go” and “It Ain’t True,” a pair of soulful stop-time numbers, before the aurally interesting ballad “Shine The Light.” John Fogarty’s Creedence Clearwater Revival classic “Green River” and “Minglewood,” penned by country bluesman Noah Lewis of Cannon’s Jug Stompers and first recorded in 1928, bracket the original, “Poison Pill,” before the simple rocker “Can’t Keep A Good Man Down” and acoustic “Days Like These” bring the 56-minute set to a close.
Available as a digital download from iTunes or through the band’s website (address above) and as a CD through Oldies.com or from the stage wherever they perform. If you’re a fan of horn-driven blues-rock with a slick, urban feel, this one is right up your alley. It’ll definitely have you working up a sweat on the dance floor.