Widow Blue – Who’s Going to Take Care of Lucille
CD: 11 Songs, 48:00 Minutes
Styles: Soul Blues, All Original Songs, Debut Album
Soul and blues have never been mutually exclusive. They’re a perfect pairing, like red wine with beef and white wine with fish. New York’s Art Halperin and his latest band, Widow Blue, blend the best of both worlds on their debut album. Who’s Going to Take Care of Lucille offers eleven songs that will please longtime fans and newcomers to the blues in equal measure. It’s already pleased critics, reaching #10 on Ben Vee’s Roadhouse’s “Best of the Blues 2018.” It presents a near-perfect balance of wallop-packing tracks with slower, more mellow selections.
With his two other bands, Work of Art and the Natural Mystics, Art has toured the U.S., Europe, South America and the Caribbean. He’s been a headliner and an opening act for bands such as Santana, Jerry Garcia, Third World, Jimmy Cliff, The Police, Bo Diddley, and Chuck Berry. As a solo artist, he’s shared the stage with such icons as Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, and Marty Stuart. Remember the 1983 John Sayles movie Baby It’s You? Work of Art was featured in it.
Widow Blue consists of Steve “Skrilla” Riddick on lead vocals, Art “Ski” Halperin on lead guitar and backing vocals, Al Maddy on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Ed “Ignatz” Stein on keyboards, Sue Williams on bass, and Jon Bates on drums. Special guest stars include drummers Patrick Conlon, Warren Odze, and George “M16” Mussington; vocalists Debbie Major, Sybil Scoby and Coco Michelle; and trombonist Fred Simmons.
The opener/title track is the perfect homage to BB King and his “queen”, a slow burner full of classic blues sound and poignant songwriting. Sybil Scoby laments, “You won’t hear her [Lucille] crying on this dark blue day and age. All you’re gonna hear is silence now that her man has gone away.” Following that is the up-tempo “That’s What I’m Talkin’ About”, and I’m talking about its electric disco vibe. It’ll get people dancing and thinking that its running time (3:53) is far too short. Instrumental “Pow Wow Blues” slows things down a bit, featuring Patrick Conlon on evocative percussion. “Snake in the Grass” is another highlight, featuring a killer acoustic guitar intro & harp by Art Halperin. Sue Williams provides a soft, ominous bassline.
After the roaring rocker “Wonderful Feeling” come the sweet love songs “When Nighttime Turns to Day” and “Back In Your Arms.” On “Nighttime,” notes fall from Debbie Major’s lips like rain on a warm summer afternoon, as they do from Halperin’s electric guitar. “Arms” may be short, but it’s a lusty acoustic ballad with old-fashioned oeuvre. Then listeners behold a “New Sun Rising” – the smoothest, most melodic tune of all. Superb harmonic vocals from Ms. Major and Coco Michelle seamlessly mesh with “Art Ski’s” keyboards in this hope-offering anthem.
Closing things out are “Why Don’t You Treat Me Nice?”, “Slow Blues and a Shot of Gin” and “Broken Heart for Sale.” Number nine’s my favorite, with ragtime trombone by Fred Simmons. The other two are solid “traditional contemporary” blues rock numbers that just might be played at one’s local bar or in an upcoming roadhouse movie.
Widow Blue’s debut is a stunner in several ways: high quality, variety of songs, broad audience appeal, and the musical chemistry among the various artists involved. It’s as tasty as barbecue pork at a “fusion” restaurant, showcasing the flavors of both classic and contemporary blues.