Brad Wilson – Hands On The Wheel
Blues Boulevard Records 2013
14 tracks; 57 minutes
Brad Wilson is an experienced Californian guitarist with several self-produced CDs to his name over the last ten years or so. This CD is his first for an ‘official’ label and he wrote all the material, reprising seven songs from his last independent CD “Blues Magic”. Brad handles all lead vocals and guitar and is assisted by two rhythm sections: Brian James (bass) and JJ Garcia (drums) appear on eight tracks and Brian Beal (bass) and Adam Gust (drums) are on six of the tunes reprised from “Blues Magic”. Keyboards are added to four tracks by Maria Zamora, Edward Roth and Kirk Nelson, a second guitar player, Rick Brannon, plays on one cut and backing vocals come from Francesca Capasso. The songs were recorded in several studios around the LA area.
According to the press release Brad ‘plays high-octane rocked-up Blues’ but he also moves into other territories including ballads, country rock, latin and funk across this album. The opening couple of tracks are well away from the blues as the title track opens proceedings in heavy rock mode with some ringing guitar riffs and powerhouse drums. Things get rather bluesier on “Nobody But You” a mid-paced rocker with some good slide work and “The Ballad Of John Lee” which recounts the story of JLH over an appropriately Hookerish riff. “Last Call” is a blues ballad with effective backing vocals and some solid guitar work around the fringes.
The Latin influence is very clear on “Blues Magic” and on the instrumental “Cruisin’ The Coast” where Brad duets well with Rick Brannon, both players soaring above a jaunty rhythm track. Both of these cuts are very radio-friendly and would sound great cruising down the Pacific Highway! Things get funky on “Hot Stuff” with the choppy rhythm getting the feet tapping – one for the dancers at Brad’s live shows one imagines. The last three tracks on the CD are in gentler mood: “I’m Still Breathing” finds Brad in reflective mood after surviving a broken relationship though the guitar solo is rather ‘over the top’; “My One Desire” is unashamedly romantic and Brad’s playing is beautifully restrained here; closing cut “Roll With Me” takes us into Americana territory, a mid-paced rocker with country flourishes that recall Eagles songs, a strong ending to the album.
Overall this CD is a good listen but is certainly not predominantly blues. If your tastes range more widely you will certainly find something to enjoy here.