Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames – Nightwalk | Album Review

Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames – Nightwalk

Delmark Records


12 tracks/61 minutes

Nightwalk is Dave Weld’s third release for Delmark Records and it is his best yet.  He ranges in song topics from plying  the depths of darkness and despair to love and lustiness.  It is quite the musical endeavor!

Dave Weld grew up like a lot of guys around my age as a teen. Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, John Mayall and the Blues Breakers and other bands were his early loves; but he was also influenced earlier in life by playing 78 RPM records from back in the early days.  The music of then-current Chicago blues greats then called to him and his career path was put in motion. A move to New Mexico did not deter him; that period of his life cemented his love for the Blues as he fell deeply into love with Hound Dog Taylor’s Alligator record; one night in the desert he heard Howling Wolf on the radio, so he packed his bags and with $10 in his wallet returned to the place of his birth and hit the clubs.

He got to play with Hound Dog Taylor and many of the other bluesmen on the scene that influence Weld’s raw guitar style. That was further enhanced by spending years learning from west Side great J.B, Hutto and playing with Hutto’s nephews Ed Williams and James Young. Weld and Ed formed Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials; success was not instantaneous as they played for about $15 a night before Bruce Iglauer found and produced their album Roughhousin’ and the global touring began.

Weld did that until 1988 when he went out on his own with the Imperial Flames and released his first album. He went back and did a second with Ed on Earwig Records and they toured some more until Ed went back to his band. Dave continued to persevere and in 2009 signed on with Delmark. Dave’s significant other Monica Myhre had become a fixture in the band by then and they did two records produced by Bob Koester.

Dave Weld and Monica Myhre split the lead vocal duties while and Jeff Taylor also fronts the band for a cut. Weld plays guitar, Jeff Taylor plays drums and Kenny Pickens plays the bass. Harry Yaseem is the band’s keyboard player; Graham Guest adds B3 and also piano to one cut. Tom Hambridge produced the album and plays drums on one cut. Tony Carpenter adds percussion to two tracks. Sax Gordon appears on three songs on baritone sax and also plays alto sax to one of them. Rogers Randle, Jr. is Dave’s band mate on sax and he plays on a few of the songs, too. Kenny Anderson (trumpet) and Bill McFarland (trombone) appear on two songs and Billy Branch makes a special appearance, too. This is the first record he’s done with Delmark’s new team, and it’s a great one.

“Mary Who” opens this new album; it is the song about a young gal who takes up the oldest profession and winds up losing her life. It’s an unfortunate tale of woe, and it’s delivery is both chilling and moving; Dave and band give the listener goosebumps as they deliver this song about the dark side of life. The haunting backing vocals repeatedly calling, “Who? Mary Who” are superb as is Dave’s guitar, vocals and the overall support of the band. A driving shuffle follows with stinging slide guitar in “Don’t Ever Change Your Ways.” Weld nails the lead guitar and solos and sings with abandon. The band lays out a vibrant groove as they give us another fine original to enjoy. Dave takes us home on guitar to end this wild ride.

Monica is featured with “Don’t Tell Mama,” a standard from their live sets that she wrote that showcases her vocal skills. The song is about not telling mama that her girl is not coming home and warns not to break her heart by telling her she’s spending the night with a man mama does not approve of. Myhre is powerful fronting the band. Weld nails another solo here and the organ solo is also a great addition. Next is “Red Hot Tabasco” where Weld compares the spiciness of his woman to the famed hot sauce. A sweet piano solo followed by another superb guitar solo help make this another winner.

“Travelin’ Woman” is a funky number with a big horn sound that once again feature Monica up front. Keys solo and the horns are splendid as the band gives us their all. “Now She’s Gone” is a slick, slow blues with Dave shouting out the blues for all to hear, and Billy Branch joins the fray with his outstanding harp work and soloing. Billy does an excellent job as he always doe. Dave also spices thongs up with another guitar solo. It’s Chicago blues done up just right!

“Cry, Cry, Cry” takes things down a bit in tempo and timber as Myhre tells here man off; she’s not gonna waste her time any more. Some fine B3 work is featured here along with more sweet guitar riffs. Next up is “Donde Vas,” with Monica asking, “Where are you going,” in this Latin infused track. Randle offers some delightful tenor sax here as do the brass duo; another super song! “She Was A Woman” is a pretty and slow blues where Myhre sings of the foolishness of a young women who was taken advantage of by her man. Weld plays some dark guitar and Monica sings with passion.

The ever ebullient Jeff Taylor leads the cut with his suave and smooth vocals in “Hit By The 103,” a song about a pedestrian’s day getting ruined by being killed by a bus. Weld picks out some cool stuff, the baritone sax gives the bottom end depth, and the alto sax delivers punch. Fortunately, Taylor tells us at the end it was just a dream and jokingly tells us he thinks Toronzo was driving that bus. A wild, slide ride follows that with “Loving You.” Weld howls out the lead vocals and wails on his guitar.

The West Side sound is obviously alive and well! Piano and organ both round out the sound in this vibrant number. The outro to the song is an extended whirling dervish of piano, organ, guitar, bass, drums and vocals. The extended mix of the opening cut concludes the album. Longer, darker and even cooler as the song fades out and then back in for more driving and musically moving stuff. If there is a song of the year award category for blues, then this song surely belongs in it!

Dave Weld and his band have outdone themselves. The listener gets to hear Dave and the band doing their best work yet ever with Nightwalk. I am sure this CD will garner notice when it’s time for awards- it’s that good!  Chicago blues done in a rough and tumble West Side style with imaginative and creative new songs; what is not to like? Go buy this one- you will not regret it!

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