Austin Walkin’ Cane – Muso
Lazy Eye Records
12 songs – 49 minutes
Based out of Cleveland, Ohio, Austin Walkin’ Cane is a slide guitar master with a deeply resonant baritone voice who delivers trademark arrangements of original and classic Delta blues in a relaxed manner and timeless feel, something that comes across from the opening bars of this pleasing set.
Born with malformed veins in one leg, he received his nickname honestly from a panhandler one night while walking down Bourbon Street in New Orleans. He began his recording career with the band The Skydogs in 1994 – two years prior to the continuing medical condition forcing a partial amputation. But that hasn’t slowed down Cane one bit.
This is Austin’s seventh release under his own name in a career that includes two albums with the Ohio City Singers and another with the Lonesome Stars. His most recent album, One Heart Walkin’, was a 2015 nominee in the best new artist album category.
A veteran road dog, he’s toured Europe, South America and Asia as a solo artist, and he’s appeared at several of the top blues events in the world, including King Biscuit, the Wheeling Blues & Heritage Festival and the Himalaya Blues Festival in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Cane mixes acoustic and electric elements on this CD — a collection of 11 originals and one cover – with helping hands from Chris Allen on tremolo, electric and acoustic guitars, Dave Morrison on harmonica, producer Don Dixon on upright bass, percussion and vocals and Freddie Perez-Stable on drums and congas.
The acoustic “Tell Me Why” opens the action with a swamp feel as Austin wonders where his lady goes in her mind every night when her eyes fill with tears. His picking is propulsive atop subdued action from the rhythm section in the background, and his voice is somewhat limited in range but warm and pleasant. The theme continues in the bittersweet ballad, “Her Heart, It Went Missing,” which brush work on the skins and harp accents throughout.
The mood brightens somewhat for “Some Bad Habits,” a medium-tempo shuffle in which Austin regrets having committed some unnamed, unwanted action again, before the electrified love song “Delilah” comes across with a funky, laid-back Big Easy beat. Morrison shines during an extended mid-tune solo, his first in the set.
The acoustic “20 Years Forgotten, 20 Years Gone” is a new tune that sounds as if it could have been written decades ago as it dwells on the memories of a lost love. It flows into the only cover in the set, a traditional take on Slim Harpo’s familiar “Got Love If You Want It.” The atmosphere changes dramatically for the finger picked ballad, “Last Day of Summer,” a sweet, quiet number full of imagery that signifies the passage of time.
The funk returns in “There Is No Blue,” a stop-time electric blues that mourns the absence of a lady at the end of a relationship, a theme that continues in the stripped-down acoustic ballad, “One Last Sunrise.” A regimental drumbeat opens the electric “Who’s That Knockin’,” which comes across with a Howlin’ Wolf feel, before the blazing-fast acoustic “I Don’t Understand” and the sugar-sweet ballad “Nothing Left of the Night” bring the action to a close.
Available through Amazon and other online vendors, this one’s chockful of great tunes and totally free of pyrotechnics – a welcome break in this chaotic, uptempo world.