Willie May – Blues for Sugar | Album Review

Willie May – Blues for Sugar



CD: 10 Songs, 39 Minutes

Styles: Ensemble Blues, Swamp Blues

Ever opened the fridge and noticed you’re out of milk, or even more direly, beer? Have you opened your cupboards that look like Old Mother Hubbard’s? How would we survive without our staples, whether staple foods or staple blues artists? Bluesmen such as Willie May are like cheese, crackers, and our favorite adult beverages. They may not be exotic like hummus or of exceptional quality like Omaha Steaks. Nevertheless, we need them around. They fill us up.

On Blues for Sugar (another staple food), May and company present ten tracks ranging from danceable ditties (“Love Sweet Love,” “Ruff Stuff”) to spooky swamp rock (“Forest of Stone,” “Zombie Dance”) to atmospheric ballads and instrumentals (“Set Me Free,” “Tres Teresa”). Willie could have put a bit more thought into some of the lyrics, but on the whole, he keeps you satisfied for thirty-nine minutes of dependable, tasty music.

Throughout the course of his extremely productive career, May has has performed back to back on stage with Alvin Lee, Steve Marriott, John Kay and Steppenwolf, Bachman Turner, Overdrive, Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Otis Clay, The Climax Blues Band, Zorra Young, Jerry Portnoy, The Legendary Blues Band, Buddy Guy, Lonnie Brooks, and many more. The Willie May Band is a 5-time Buffalo Area Music Award winner voted Western New York Blues Beat Magazine’s Band of the Year.

Joining Mr. May (vocals, guitar, kalimba and ocarina) are Brandon Santini, James Cotton, Mark Panfil, and Jeremy Keyes on harmonica; Evan Laedke and Stan Szelest on keyboards; Hayden Fogle and Ron “Sugarman” Kain on guitar; Jim Bohm on flugelhorn; Mark Garcia, Owen Eichensehr, and Randall Corsi on drums, and Mark Harris, Tom Corsi, and Robert “Freightrain” Parker on bass. Mark Panfil also plays accordion on track six, and Ron “Sugarman” Kain does lead vocals on track eight.

This band’s strength is no-holds-barred instrumentation, delivering the good time it promises without being overproduced. Slick dubbing and editing can only go so far, and it doesn’t fit Willie’s raucous energy or exuberant style. Ergo, it’s not here. This is swampy blues, not just swamp blues. For polish and power a la Tab Benoit, look elsewhere. If you want solid, staple blues, look and listen here on Blues for Sugar!

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