Andy Watts – Supergroove | Album Review

Andy Watts – Supergroove

10 songs – 44 minutes

VizzTone Label Group VT-BOOGA-02

Recognized as the ambassador of the blues in his native Israel, guitarist Andy Watts has made a name for himself internationally by serving as the host to dozens of top American artists and teaming with them to deliver some of the hottest music in the Middle East. And that’s exactly what you get here: a red-hot set that’s co-produced by Kenny Neal and features guest appearances from Joe Louis Walker and Eliza Neals.

Recorded by Kenny for his new imprint, Booga Music, and released in association with Boston-based VizzTone Label Group, Watts lays down consistently rich, single-note guitar runs on this one when leaving the vocals to others and backed by his nine-piece orchestra, Andy Watts and Blues on Fire.

Based out of Tel Aviv, Watts fell in love with the blues after hearing it over the radio at age 12 and is deeply influenced by Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green. He’s been importing top U.S. talent – everyone from Neal, Neals and Walker to Lucky Peterson, Rick Estrin and Bernard Allison.

The musical alignment changes throughout this collection of five tasty originals and five well-conceived covers. Eliza and Joe Louis are at the mic for one cut each with the remainder handled by American R&B singer Roy Young and Danny Shoshan and Gadi Altman, a pair of equally talented Israelis.

Recorded by Matan Ashkenazy at Ozen Muzikalit in Ma’abarot – a kibbutz in central Israel, the lineup includes Eyal Klein and Matan Mochiach on keyboards, Ioram Linker on sax, Gregory Rivkin on trumpet, Moran Bar-On on trombone, Ilan Hillel and Tom Mochiach on bass and Tom Bollig on drums with Coastin Hank sitting for two tunes on harmonica.

Watts’ talents are on display for the original instrumental opener, “SuperGroove,” which was inspired by ‘60s soul-blues bands that featured baritone sax and Hammond B3 organs. It’s a pleasing stop-time shuffle that’s built up from the solid base of a low-register guitar hook before sliding into a modern blues. Linder’s solo is brief, but powerful.

Next up, Watts reinterprets Estrin’s “Living Hand to Mouth,” a tune that first appeared on Little Charlie & the Nightcats’ All the Way Crazy CD in the ‘80s. Not to be confused with the late British rocker with the same name, Young is at the mic, his smoky voice adding a different spin to the original, with Hank and adding fills. Andy’s mid-tune solo builds on lines laid down originally by Little Charley Baty.

Shoshan takes command for the original, “Straight Shooting Woman,” a medium-paced shuffle with horn arrangements, before Walker makes his solo appearance on “Burning Deep,” a song he and Watts co-wrote. It’s a deep-blues ballad with jazzy, soulful overtones that smolders from the jump with Andy’s guitar licks as it describes a troubled relationship. One of the highlights of the set, the lyrics complain: “You bring out the best of the worst in me.”

Young’s back in charge as Watts renews the Freddie King standard, “Pack It Up,” with an uptempo arrangement before the disc takes another interesting turn with Detroit-based, operatically trained Eliza reinterpreting one of Walker’s biggest hits, “Blues of the Month Club.” The unhurried, original ballad, “Don’t Take My Blues Away” a tearjerker delivered by Roy, is up next before Watts and Shoshan take on “Don’t You Let Me Down,” a tune first recorded by the psychedelic rock band Jericho in 1972. “Raw,” an original blues-rocker delivered by Altman, and the tasty instrumental, “Super Natural” — penned by Green and featuring a jazzy horn arrangement, bring the disc to a close.

You’ve probably never heard of Andy Watts previously, but he’s a stellar six-string master and band leader who definitely deserves your attention. Supergroove is a treasure from afar for fans of modern blues.

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