CD: 12 songs; 50:54 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric and Harmonica Blues
From the cover art of their third studio release, guess where this band has its base: A sign in the setting sun reads “Hi-Desert Casino Restaurant and Inn”
Is it Las Vegas? Reno? Nope – the United Kingdom! The band Split Whiskers knows “Money Ain’t Everything,” and that’s their upbeat message. According to their website, “Split Whiskers have their roots firmly planted in Chicago blues, crossing boundaries into rock and funk.” That’s a sparse description, but the members make up for it via bold instrumentation and dynamic energy. Even though their vocals sound more like conversational speech than singing, that doesn’t entirely ruin the CD. Split Whiskers provides an ensemble sound, consisting of Gilby J. Fletcher on lead vocals and harmonica, Johnny ‘Magic Boy’ Wright on vocals and acoustic, resonator and electric guitars, keyboardist Matt Wilshaw, bassists Claudia ‘Beads’ McKenzie and Lee Phillips, drummers Mick ‘Chippy’ Carpenter and Tony Hill, Pete Towers on slide guitar, and Sue Marchant on vocals for “Soul on Fire”. Together they present twelve songs: five originals and seven covers (including “The Spider and the Fly” by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards). Of the former type of tune, these three are tops:
Track 05: “Money Ain’t Everything” – Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street” would beg to differ, but the singers in the title track realize there are more important things in life than one’s bankroll. “I went from rags to riches, and riches to rags again.” How true – a fortune comes and goes, no matter one’s high ambition. Gilby J. Fletcher’s howling harp and Matt Wilshaw’s ragtime piano make the perfect pair, while ‘Magic Boy’ Wright’s electric guitar completes a trio. “I’ve got my gal, got my family, got my friends,” Fletcher sings, and a flair for country blues too.
Track 07: “Never Made the Call” – Almost negating the theme of the selection above, but not quite, is this tale of unfulfilled dreams. “I could have been a millionaire; I could have had it all. Coulda, shoulda, I woulda done, but I never made the call.” Those three abbreviated words arrive as gracefully as punches in the gut, and that’s the point. Is this a rock song? Is it funk? Consider it a nice mixture of both, but it’s not for down-and-dirty blues lovers. Wilshaw’s Hammond organ and Wright’s wah-wah shredder are fantastic.
Track 09: “Big Brother” – The lyrics are the best thing about song number nine, a warning regarding widespread spying and data collection: “They know how fast I’m going, how fast my water’s been flowing – there’s cameras everywhere I go.” Even though such a phenomenon is common in the United States and England, this Orwellian nightmare is far deeper ‘across the pond’. “Oh, Big Brother, what do you do with all the stuff you see?” Fletcher asks meekly.
“Money Ain’t Everything”, but the blues just might be!