Self-Produced/Willie May Music
CD: 10 Songs, 37:12 Minutes
Styles: All Original Songs, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Ensemble Blues, Harmonica Blues
Who says the holiday season isn’t the right time to listen to, or review, a blues-rock gem called Haunted House? After all, Charles Dickens populated A Christmas Carol with four ghosts, the first one to appear (Jacob Marley) being frightening indeed. The story was written in a tongue-in-cheek tone with regard to the supernatural: “There’s more gravy than of grave about you,” says Ebenezer Scrooge to Marley’s specter. That same witty style is ever-present in the eighteenth album by New York’s Willie May. Yours truly reviewed his 2016 release, Blues Mona, with generally-positive commentary. The same goes for this one. Willie still can’t sing, and it’s painful to hear him try on songs like “Another Moon Song” and the unnecessary “See You Smile.” However, the instrumentation and swag on this CD are so great you won’t care. May is a veritable one-man band here (although he’s not) on vocals, guitar, ukulele, kalimba and bass. He’s the Stephen King of contemporary electric blues rock – maybe the Clive Barker or Joe Hill. His work might not earn him top honors with elite critics, but he fits the bill for this one just fine.
Now for a name-dropping biographical blurb featured on his website: “Willie May 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, Johnny Clyde Copeland, Sue Foley, L.A. Jones, Chris Duarte, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Stan Szelest, Chris Beard, Rock Bottom, James Cotton, Big Jack Johnson, Dangerous Dan Toler, Derek Trucks, Freddie Salem 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.”
Now for a name-dropping blurb featuring the myriad musicians accompanying May: Al Monti on saxophone; Bob Meier on trombone; Doug Yeomans on guitar; Dwane Hall on background vocals and synthesizer; Evan Laedke on organ and melodica; Jerry Bass on drums; Jim Whitford on upright bass; Mark Garcia on drums and congas; Mark Harris on bass; Mark Hummel on harmonica for the opening track; Mark Panfil on piano, accordion and harmonica; Mary Ramsey on viola; Owen Eichensehr on drums; Paul Wos on trumpet; Randy Bolam on drums and djembe; Robert Parker on bass, and Tom Lafferty on drums.
The best tune on Haunted House will get crowds dancing at home or at live concerts.
Track 01: “Hey Big Fannie” – Politically correct, this song is not. Hella catchy, it certainly is. Featuring special guests Mary Ramsey on viola and Mark Hummel on harmonica, this is a swing-blues masterpiece. “I said, drink, drink, drink, Big Fannie! Come on, drink, drink, drink, Big Fannie! Drink, Big Fannie, come and take a ride with me.” When you hear how she has to make her way through entrances, you might cringe, but if you’re drinking like she is, so what?
Pardon the cliché, blues fans, but Willie May’s Haunted House is so good it’s scary!