Jay Willie & James Montgomery – Cadillac Walk
This is the sixth Zoho release for Jay Willie. It’s quite the eclectic mix of tunes, with one original and nine interesting covers. Jay Willie is a New England blues rocker who has released a number of albums featuring his incendiary guitar work. Here he brings in the legendary James Montgomery on harp and vocals to make quite the interesting CD. Montgomery’s four decade career has seen him with Johnny Winter, Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, The Allman Brother Band, Steve Miller, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, James Cotton and countless others. The guitar and harp work throughout are stellar, as would be expected from these two.
I addition to Jay Willie’s guitar and vocals and Montgomery’s harp and vocals are drummer Bobby T. Torello whom both are friends with and have worked with over the years (he’s in Willie’s band). On bass, lap steel, keys and simulated horns is Paul Opalach. The sound is big and deep, showing the depth of these fine players.
Leiber and Stoller wrote “Three Cool Cats” which opens the album; it was done originally by the Coasters and later the Beatles (among others). Featuring nice harp work and solid guitar play, it a good opener; Kyle Mangrove backs up the lead vocals here. The early punk rock band Mink Deville’s “Cadillac Walk” gets an interesting transformation here with some heavy slide guitar and with the harp blazing. Lee-Ann Lovelace also assists on vocals. “Neighbor Neighbor” is an Elvin Bishop track and its gets a rocking blues cover here. The harp and then guitar are once again featured to good effect. The Stone’s “Satisfaction” is next, the weakest cut on the CD. Mundane vocals but the harp and guitar once again shined. Tampa Red’s “Detroit Blues” gets a soulful cover; it is also Montgomery’s hometown. A nice, lazy sort of pace with thoughtful harp and guitar make this pretty and fun.
“Give Me One Reason” is Tracy Chapman’s famous cut and here Willie and Montgomery approach it with a blues feel and vocals that exude a bit of punk rock. Lovelace helps on the vocals again, a nice touch. The harp is prominent and well done. Jay Willie’s “Montgomery Boogie” features a driving beat and high powered guitar. It’s a slick instrumental with some great harp added, but the guitar is the key to this one’s success. The harp does take us home in a cool manner, though! Montgomery’s former bandleader Johnny Winter wrote and did “I’m Yours and I’m Hers.” The vocals remind me a bit of Winter’s style. The mid-tempo groove, solid guitar and passionate harp are all well done here. “Dry Onions” is a sweet old Willie Cobb harp cut and Montgomery does a fine job with it on the Mississippi saxophone. The vocals are more rocking and the guitar is a bit heavier, which are original touches to update this. The solos on harp and guitar are winners. Things finish up with another Winter tune, “Mean Town Blues.” Some slick resonator slide work and finger picking over a nice, driving snare beat make this special.
There are not too many complaints here. Jay Willie and James Montgomery are seasoned musicians who know how to play. The songs may not have started out as blues songs, but they are all transformed into blues and blues rock with interesting approaches to the covers. From traditional blues to punk rock, Willie and Montgomery put a big coat of new lipstick on these cuts and make them their own!