The Wildcat O’Halloran Band – That Boy Don’t Play No Blues
Dove Nest Records 2016
11 tracks; 44 minutes
In the past Massachusetts-based Wildcat O’Halloran has apparently been accused of ‘stretching the form’ by purists, so this album may be a response to those comments as Wildcat claims to be ‘putting the blues into others’ songs…blues, not the dreaded blues-based’ on a CD that is entirely covers from a very diverse set of artists. Wildcat’s claim looks reasonably solid on tracks like The Beatles “Dr Robert” as Wildcat’s guitar sits on top of a solid blues shuffle and Sting’s “Russians” which gets a funky stop-start rhythm treatment, but on several tracks the claim does not stand up, the versions of Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice” and Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” (bizarrely credited here to Broadway writers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty!) coming across more like a karaoke evening than anything original.
Wildcat also tries his hand on some soul numbers: Sarah Halloran duets on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and her voice is good though it does show that Wildcat’s own voice does not really suit the material; a rather polite version of Sly’s “Dance To The Music” has some cool sax from Emily Duff; “I Wanna Be Where You Are” was an early 1972 hit for Michael Jackson and here works well as a slower-paced tune though Wildcat struggles vocally. He is more at ease on the uptempo tunes like “Don’t Let The Devil Ride” which transforms well from its gospel origins (Brother Joe May) with fine harp work from Johnny Marino and “Dark Whiskey”, originally a country tune (Gary Allan), but now propelled by keening slide.
Wildcat is on guitar with Devin Griffiths, Emily Duff plays sax, Dave Kenderlan is on bass and Joe Fitzpatrick on drums; guests include Johnny Marino on harp and Billy McManus on congas. On the CD cover a selection of blues greats from the past is watching Wildcat playing guitar, Muddy Waters looking quizzical as he states at the title of the album, Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan appearing to share a joke at the rear. In this reviewer’s opinion this disc is probably one for existing fans of the band.