Beluga Records, New Zealand
CD: 10 Songs; 42:49 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues and Blues Rock
Ah, the perils of postmodern technology. When our main sources of connection to the world, the smartphone and the Internet, fail, what then? What can help us feel we aren’t adrift in a fog? Music is one powerful answer, especially blues by a New Zealand maverick. Introducing Darren Watson, his 2014 debut on Beluga Records, is a fantastic companion on a miserable day when our digital lifelines are down. Want some proof? Check out his promo info:
“…Darren also fulfilled a lifelong ambition working alongside one of his childhood R&B heroes, touring extensively as sideman for Midge Marsden, and more recently performing as sideman to Chicago blues legend Billy Boy Arnold. He’s also opened for New Orleans funkster Dr. John, Doug McLeod, Joe Cocker, [and] Keb Mo…. In 2009, Watson won first place in the 2008 International Songwriting Competition (Blues), judged by artists like Tom Waits, James Cotton and John Mayall.” Need more proof of his greatness? LA blues legend Rick Holmstrom sent Watson an unsolicited message on Facebook: “Darren, I recently saw a clip of you on the youtubes [sic: YouTube]. You’re a mutha!”
Watson’s style is infectiously good-natured. Even when he’s singing the blues, listeners can tell he has a smile in his heart. On this album he presents ten original, fearless tracks that strike the optimal balance between raw feeling and studio polish. With Darren are Alan Norman on piano and Hammond organ, Craig Denham on accordion, Elliotte Fuimaono on bass, Steve Moodie on double bass, Richard Te One on drums, Chris Selley and Michael Costeloe on trumpet, and saxophonists Andre Paris (baritone and alto) and Andrew Clouston (tenor).
The following three songs show exactly why he took first prize in the ISC blues category in ‘08:
Track 01: “Some Men” – With a beat slightly reminiscent of “The Boy from New York City,” track one demonstrates what kind of male Watson is not. “Now, some men lie. Some men cheat. Don’t you know, darling? That ain’t me.” The two best instrumental performances are Watson on sly electric guitar and Alan Norman on barroom piano.
Track 05: “Who Gave Up?” – Grab a partner for a quick boogie, even though this ballad is more conducive to breaking up than dancing cheek-to-cheek. “Who gave up on who? I never gave up on you…All of my inheritance will be this mess. Wishing you the worst and hoping for the best. Wasn’t everything you wanted what the preacher blessed?”
Track 08: “I’m So Shallow” – How do bad relationships start? Watson gives us one clue in this slow burner: “I have to admit, I put up with your [expletive] ‘cause you’re so pretty and I’m so shallow…The things that you did, I should have run, but I kept thinking I was the lucky one.”
Introducing Darren Watson is the perfect thing to hear when hungry for 21st-century blues!