The WildRoots – The WildRoots Sessions Vol. 2
WildRoots Records CD2022A
15 songs – 55 minutes
A decade before Victor Wainwright and his group, The WildRoots, took home Blues Music Awards in 2016 as band and entertainer of the year, they were delivering some of the hottest blues on the scene of their home base in Central Florida. They celebrated their lengthy partnership last year with a stellar, star-studded retrospective and follow it with this collection which carries it forward without dropping a beat.
Co-founded by Grammy nominee Wainwright and the award-winning production team of Stephen and Patricia Ann Dees – he’s the former bassist for Hall & Oates, Pat Travers and Todd Rundgren and she’s a multi-instrumentalist vocalist who plays sax, keys, harmonica and bass, they came together in 2005 when Stephen was producing Victor’s debut solo release, Piana from Savannah. Their lineup always featured a moveable feast of top talent that included guitarist/vocalist Robert “Tap” Thomas, guitarist Greg Gumpel, sax player Charlie DeChant, harp player Stephen Kampa and percussionists Billy Dean and Alberto Cruz, all of whom are present here.
And they proved to be such a favorite that national touring acts frequently joined them on stage, too – something that’s evident in the grooves of this set, which includes appearances from Reba Russell, Lucky Peterson, Pat Harrington, Nick Black, Billy Livesay (Clarence Clemons/The Livesays), Anthony “Packrat” Thompson (Packrat’s Smokehouse) and 14 other guests, including Mark Hodgson (Midnight Creepers), Beth McKee (Evangeline), Todd Sharp (Delbert McClinton) and 21-year-old gospel sensation Brianna Harris, too.
Unlike volume one, which contained multiple well-executed covers along with originals, all of the 15 songs in this set – a mixed bag of contemporary and traditional blues, gospel and roots — are penned by Dees either alone or in partnership with Patricia Ann, Victor and Bryan Bassett, who adds lead guitar on three tracks.
Wainwright and Patricia Ann share vocals on the opener, “I.O.U.,” an unhurried shuffle that preaches the need to celebrate with interest the love you share with a significant other. Packrat’s warm, Southern-tinged baritone takes command in “Lazy Little Daisy,” a humorous description of a woman who does little more than snack and nap, before Reba and Patricia Ann team to deliver the acoustic blues pleaser, “Long Way to Go.”
The WildRoots turn mic and lead guitar duties over to 22-year-old Dyer Davis, front man of the band Rubber Soul Child, for “The Bad Seed,” an uptempo, contemporary blues before Wainwright takes command for “I Feel Fine,” a soulful, unhurried and lushly arranged ballad that looks forward optimistically to better times ahead.
Next up, the sound hints at the ‘50s and the Andrews Sisters as Victor tinkles the keys with only rhythm-section accompaniment as McKee teams with Reba and Patricia Ann to deliver “That Man of Mine.” The feel doesn’t last long, however, because “The Threads of Time,” which follows, is a rocker delivered by Hodgson and propelled by Bassett’s guitar before Patricia Ann’s in charge for “Sweet Louise,” a rootsy request that the beloved sister of the title return after far too long an absence.
The sounds of an engine turning over open the rocker “Working for My Car Blues,” which features Livesay at the mic, before Wainwright takes command as only he can with Hodgson on harmonica for the barrelhouse instrumental, “WildRoot Boogie.” The feel shifts dramatically with “Put Your Hand in the Fire” as the Dees partner for a little acoustic hokum then yield to Top for “Pile of Blues,” another acoustic pleaser that bemoans ambitions going down the drain.
The band takes listeners to church to close the disc beginning with Victor delivering the rousing, horn-fueled “Good Word” before Patricia Ann goes acoustic for the unrushed “I Say Amen” and Brianna shines on the powerful closer, “Ready When the Day Is Done.”
The WildRoots hit a home run with their first collection and go yard with this one, too. This one’s available online, but do the band a favor and order it from the band’s website (address above).