CD: 8 Songs, 43:10 Minutes
Styles: Blues Covers, Ensemble Blues
Yours truly has often tried to discover the reasons why covers remain so popular, especially in the blues genre. Oddly enough, some Olympic athletes have helped me find out another one. Gymnasts create, and then try to emulate, each other’s signature moves: the Amanar vault, for example, and a new one named for (I kid you not) Marisa Dick. The point in performing such flourishes is twofold: 1) Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; and 2) Novelty counts nowhere near as much as execution, at least in gymnastics scores. The same might be said for blues covers. Some bands may not put their own material forward, but, man, can they belt out the classics with uncharacteristic power! This is what San Diego’s Wayne Riker Brotherhood does on their newest release, Blues Convocation. On eight well-percolated covers, they give their all in a robust brew of blues. His usual four-piece band adds seven special guests, for a savory result.
On his webpage, Riker comments: “My journey on guitar began shortly after the Beatles hit the shores of the U.S. in 1964. What started as a hobby, became a passion and career, shortly afterwards, beginning with my first gig in 1967 at The Cafe Bizarre in Greenwich Village, in my hometown of New York City, winding through the heyday of the Jersey Shore, to the plains of the Midwest, to my present situation as a freelance guitarist in San Diego, California. I’ve played in over fifty groups, spanning most all the musical spectrums, including Rock, Funk, Country, Jazz, Blues, Latin, Top 40, Big Band, World Music, show bands, musical theater, and concerts backing up numerous ‘well known’ and ‘hardly known’ entertainers, in addition to performing solo guitar instrumental shows. Concurrently, I’ve taught guitar as my parallel passion, since 1972.”
Accompanying guitarist/vocalist Wayne Riker are regular keyboardist/vocalist Mike Finnigan, bassist Nathan Brown, and drummer Walt Riker. Ensemble guests include Bill Shreeve on alto and tenor sax; Lance Dieckmann on harmonica, and vocalists Missy Andersen, Whitney Shay, Shelle Blue, Scott Mathiasen, and Miki Purnell.
The following cover is this CD’s vocal best, and one of its finest overall tracks as well.
Track 06: “Willow Weep for Me” – Miki Purnell steals the show and listeners’ hearts on her rendition of Ann Ronell’s hit, popularized by legends like Steve Miller. With a medium tempo and clear diction, she pours her heart out: “Willow, weep for me. Willow, weep for me. Bend your branches green along the stream…Listen to my plea: Listen, willow, and weep for me.” Miller’s melancholy may be absent, but Purnell’s voice is sweet and pliant as a willow branch. Riker’s guitar is as melodic as a mountain stream, burbling in some places, yet roaring in others.
The word “convocation” means “a coming together,” as in a church congregation. Not only have these eleven blues artists come together in a physical sense, performing together, but they’ve also gathered eight of the world’s best-loved blues songs into a convocation of classic style. Their execution is top-notch, deserving of a high score on all fans’ playlists!