Wily Bo Walker – Almost Transparent Blues
Mescal Canyon Records
11 tracks | 54 minutes
The Glasgow-born singer, songwriter, storyteller is one of a very few independent blues artists from the U.K. to be inducted into the U.S. Blues Hall of Fame. This latest release is a compilation of the various outfits and musical personas he adopts. The album touches on Buster Poindexter and Bruce Springsteen meeting Tom Waits with the bombast of Nick Cave on a nice day.
This Scot’s a real nutter, as the Brits would say. Searing guitar solos from E D Brayshaw that owe more to David Gilmore than the bio-mentioned Gary Moore, take songs like “Storm Warning”, “I Want to Know” and “Loan Me A Dime” to solid crash landing in “Motel Blues”. E D can rip it with the best of them. Walker’s been doing this professionally for 40 years on, and it’s shop worn but not tired in any way. You have entered the mind-blowing expanding universe of the Wily Bo experience and when Wily and Brayshaw are playing together it’s the old one two punch of rock’s greatest.
The songs without E D are a nice change of pace “Long Way to Heaven” features The Brown Sisters of Chicago: Adrienne, Andrea and Vanessa Brown Dukes who sing like the heavens are their private domain. The vocal arch is pure Joe Cocker-esque without ever getting as up where he belongs but it’s always nice to be compared favorably to such a dearly departed great. Probably the best track is the swinging big band love song “Did I Forget?” with a great lyric at the end “Goodbye baby…It’s been a long and lonely day”. The tone is perfect for the feeling it portrays. Backing vocals by Kareña K are a stark contrast and welcome relief from the Wily growl as they are on a few other tracks. The baritone sax solo by Ron Bertolet along with the Danny Flam on trombones and trumpets round out this hit song and would be single.
The depth of talented musicians on display here is staggering. As high a standard as Wily and E D set, the side players kill it every time. For example, Tony Gorruso’s trumpet solo on the opener “Chattahoochee Coochee Man”, along with Geoff Slater’s slow single note guitar climb on the breakdown, brings the house down and that’s just the first tune!
“Walking With The Devil” explores another take on the aural tradition of the legend of the crossroads in which Robert Johnson was said to have made a deal with the devil in order to gain his considerable musical chops. It’s also a known theme in many blues tunes and as blues author Adam Gussow says in the back cover liner notes of his new book “Beyond the Crossroads”: “The Devil is the most charismatic and important figure in the blues tradition.”
Wily Bo may actually be the Devil if you believe half the tales he weaves throughout this album. With four new albums planned in the near future he’s probably out there right now out on Highway 61 looking to make a deal. He’ll need to.