The Wildcat O’Halloran Band – You Can’t Fall Off The Floor
11 songs – 50 minutes
The Wildcat O’Halloran Band is based out of Western Massachusetts and You Can’t Fall Off The Floor is the band’s 16th album in its 30th year of existence. Led by singer/guitarist/songwriter , William “Wildcat” O’Halloran, the band plays primarily upbeat electric blues, mixing originals with cleverly selected covers.
Opening with a near seven-minute version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Worried About You”, the band sets out its stall immediately: a tidy groove from the rhythm section of Mark Chouinard on drums and bassist Dave Kenderian, a healthy serving of guitar and the first of a series of excellent solos from saxophonist, Emily Duff. The interplay between O’Halloran’s guitar and Duff’s sax displays the dry sense of humor that is evident across the album, especially when they unexpectedly launch into the riff from the Beatles’ “Day Tripper”. There is similar interplay on “Take Me For A Little While”, one of the highlights of the album.
Other covers include Ray Charles’ “Mary Ann”, enjoyably reworked without the horns and piano of the original and played at a slightly slower lick, Johnny Copeland’s “Devil’s Hand” and Albert King’s “Angel of Mercy”.
O’Halloran’s own songs often contain humorous lyrics, such as the brutal social media take down “Facebook U”, with its admonishment that “If I wanted fake news, I’d buy a fake newspaper” or the wry observations in “Too Big To Cry”: “Well my credit is shot and the cupboard is bare. If trouble was money, I’d be a millionaire. If you think I got worries, you don’t know the half, but I’m too big to cry so I might as well laugh.” He also addresses the Covid-19 pandemic in both the title track and “Pirate Queen”, which recounts the story of Duff’s efforts to return to the USA after the cruise ship she was working on was caught in Asia when the world went into lock down.
O’Halloran is a fluid and deft guitarist with an endearingly enthusiastic approach to soloing. His vocals, however, are less strong, often closer to the spoken word than a singing voice. It works fine on the faster songs, such as the rock’n’roll of “Too Big To Cry”, or the busier tracks like “Take Me For A Little While” or “Worried About You”, but on slower tracks like “Crossin’ Off”, “Angel Of Mercy” or the title track, O’Halloran’s voice can sound like a slightly more assertive Roy Buchanan.
There are one or two missteps on the album. The production on You Can’t Fall Off The Floor is curiously unbalanced, with the guitars and the sax to the fore but the drums buried deep in the mix. This, compounded with O’Halloran’s occasional rhythmic stumbles on his solos, results in the album sounding more like than a demo than a polished release.
This is a shame because it’s clear there is a lot of talent on show here and no doubt they are an enticing prospect live. As it is, You Can’t Fall Off The Floor feels like a missed opportunity for the band.