Fans of Southside Johnny & the Ashbury Jukes will be familiar with guitarist Billy Walton, who is a former member of that formidable organization. Blues Blast Magazine readers in Europe may have seen Billy with his own band on one of their frequent tours overseas over the last eight years. Now the band is looking to capture the ears and hearts of listeners throughout the USA.
They burst out of the gate with the title track, complete with an organ wash courtesy of guest Mike Finnigan that simmers underneath Walton’s fierce guitar licks. “Mountain” is a relentless, grinding number that finds Walton armed and ready to defend himself if necessary. He preaches about letting go on “Forgive And Forget,” adding some wah-wah flavoring to the guitar part while Sean Marks on sax, Steve Hyde on trumpet, and Ian Gray on trombone strut their stuff.
On cuts like “True Lovin’ Man” and “Till Tomorrow,” the band unveils their rock & soul nature. Walton’s higher pitched vocals floats over the solid rhythm support from William Paris on bass and John D’Angelo on drums. One of the singer’s finest moments occurs on a touching rendition of “Walk That Little Girl Home,” co-written by Willy Deville and Doc Pomus. The other cover, Felix Cavaliere”s “Come On Up,” is certain to get the dancers feet moving at live shows.
“Blues Come A Knockin” settles into a laidback, country blues mode with Walton on slide and Southside Johnny blowing some fine harmonica. The country feel is even more pronounced on the opening of “Hudson County Star,” with Walton and Paris trading vocals. After two minutes, the band kicks it into gear and the song morphs into a surging, up-tempo rocker. “Change” establishes a melancholic atmosphere but would have benefited from a stronger set of lyrics. Things get a bit better on ”Worried Blues” with Walton making several strong statements on slide guitar. Joey Stann on sax fills the Clarence Clemons role on ‘It Don’t Matter,” celebrating the famed New Jersey musical tradition.
Producer Tony Braunagel makes sure that that each arrangement has a fat sound and the band stays focused. There is plenty to enjoy here – and all indications are that the Billy Walton Band can bring some of the same energy to the live stage as several other renowned New Jersey groups.