The Waydown Wailers – Backland Blues
2018, Woodstock Records
11 songs, 43 Minutes
Based in Canton, NY – along the St. Lawrence River, way up near the Canadian border – the Waydown Wailers third CD, Backland Blues, highlights the band’s Skynyrd-esque approach to “Outlaw Country” and bluesy Southern Rock. The band consists of Dave Parker on guitar and vocals, his brother Christian Parker on lead guitar, Michael Scriminger on drums, and Connor Pelkey on bass and backing vocals. This collection was produced by Aaron L. Hurwitz, aka “Professor Louie.” Hurwitz also plays key on the album, and co-wrote the album’s opening track, “Back Door Woman Blues.” In addition to Hurwitz, other guests on this collection include Alexander Scriminger and Miss Marie on backing vocals and Ron Keck on tambourine.
Of the 11 songs on the album, 8 are originals, and three are covers, and all have a sturdy, well-rehearsed bar-band feel to them. The opening track, “Back Door Woman Blues,” has a rollicking roadhouse feel to it, but David Parker’s insistence on repeatedly moving in and out of a falsetto voice feels forced and is somewhat distracting. “I Want Your Soul” is a solid, rocking shuffle that has some gritty slide guitar woven thought the song, while Elmore James’ “Done Somebody Wrong” gets an unexpected overhaul that combines some greasy slide with with an interesting beat and some slurred chordal work.
“Just Another Bump in the Road” is set to a solid boogie beat, and is a veritable ‘Murphy’s Law’ set to music. It tells a tale of one misfortune after another, before veering-off into an extended, southern-style jam. I imagine this to be a very popular live track for the band.
“No Mercy” has a really nice groove to it, feeling a lot like a funky, bourbon-fueled Grateful Dead jam.
Larry Williams’ classic, “Dizzy Miss Lizzie,” retains the overall feel of the well-known Beatles cover, but with an added helping of attitude and some gritty guitar work. “Every Passing Mile” is far and away the strongest original on the album, and pulses along like a semi-truck doing a midnight run, barrelling down a wide-open highway. Good stuff.
The countrified sounds of “Somewhere in the Middle” express the longing for some kind of political moderation, against a funky drum rhythm and some lovely vocal harmonies. This, too, has an extended jam band outro.
“I’m On the Hunt” unfortunately feels a bit too much like it would be a hit at a frat party. Probably my least favorite track on the album.
“State of the Union,” a remix of a song they’d done on an earlier album, uses a familiar, pulsing ‘train” beat to drive home a message of disillusionment with the current state of affairs in our country (and perhaps the rest of the world?).
“Lover of the Bayou” is a Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy composition that hews pretty closely to versions I’ve heard by McGuinn’s band, Thunderbyrd. Not my favorite of McGuinn’s work, but the band does a more than respectable cover of the tune.
If you’re a fan of Southern Rock and Outlaw Country, these fellows are worth checking out. Overall, the band is tight, the vocals are strong, and the guitars are gritty and persuasive. The drumming is solid, but the bass playing can, at times, get a little busy, which can detract from an otherwise solid groove. The recording quality, mixing and engineering are all very good.
That said, with a band as solid as this, I’d really like to see them push their songwriting a bit, and venture a little further beyond tried-and-true bar band cliches. With material that is a bit more challenging – both lyrically and musically – I believe they can make the leap to the next level, and I, for one, would love to hear it!