CD: 12 Songs, 44:13 Minutes
Styles: Traditional Electric Blues, Roots, Blues Covers
The subtitle for Back to the Shack, from South Carolina’s Wes Mackey, reads Retro Collection. Indeed: this album is a showcase of five classic covers and six originals by Wes and co-producer Laura Fisher. Two of the best covers are Willie Dixon’s “Nervous” and Leadbelly’s “Outskirts of Town.” As for their own compositions, Mackey and Fisher have made the grade: a B-. “Who Do Da Voodoo” (reviewed below) and “Blues Shack” are clear highlights, but “I Been Bad” could have used some lyrical tweaking to avoid redundancy. Overall, those who like roots music and blues from the over-70 crowd will be in for a treat. The instrumentation here is top-notch, and as for Wes’ vocals, their tonal quality is fine, but his age clearly shows. What he lacks in pitch, range and volume, he makes up for in style.
His bio states, “With more than 50 years in music he went from working the dusty honky tonks of Georgia to performing in five star venues, festival and concert stages around the world including places like Iceland, Russia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and many others. Mackey learned to play the guitar from the seasoned old blues players of the South where he was born and raised. At the urging of his father he eventually left “Big Estate” in rural South Carolina and moved to Augusta, Georgia where his career really began. His first gig paid 50 cents and a chicken sandwich, but soon he found himself working in bands that would back up touring artists including Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Stevie Wonder and many others. For years he toured as a side man, and the road finally took him to Canada. After some well-documented challenges that took Wes astray and away from music, eventually he took front and center developing a diverse and interesting career that gave birth to his eclectic take on the blues.”
For the life of her, yours truly could not find the “full musician credits” on Mackey’s sparse-yet-confusing website. Nor could she find them listed on the cover jacket of the album, or in the included one-ply booklet with biographical details and another rave review. For now, however…
Track 03: “Who Do Da Voodoo” – Hexes are some of blues musicians’ favorite subjects, put upon hapless narrators by “Cajun queens” in – guess where? The title of this song is Mackey’s insistent question, his plea to find out the identity of his tormentor. The tempo is just right for swing dancing, no matter if you know the moves or are simply intent on swinging your hips.
Wes Mackey has more than paid his dues when it comes to playing the blues. When he goes Back to the Shack, he’s not only paying homage to his roots, but emphasizing the theme of returning home: another favorite in this genre besides the triad of love, money and booze. Whether it will satisfy fans who are looking for a spectacular senior vocalist is up for debate, but one thing’s for sure. When one has lived this long, performing for decades on end, one deserves the Blue-litzer Prize.