July 10, 2012

by Eric Campfens


Willie McBlind is not a person. No, Willie McBlind is a band. A bluesband, and with such a name it is hardly avoidable, isn't it? But Willie McBlind is not just a bluesband. No, it is not as easy as that. It is a bluesband, that produces a whole different sound. A sound that probably is not to everyone's liking. It also took time before I got used to it.

Firstly, let me present the band, that consists of Jon Catler (vocals, guitar), Meredith 'Babe' Borden (vocals, autoharp), Mat Fieldes (bass) and Lorne Watson (drums). The special thing about the band is that Catler plays guitar in microtones. Microtones are 64 notes per octave. And singer Borden has a reach of more than three octaves and is also able to handle more than the usual eight notes per octave. Are you still with me?

Their third album “Live Long Day” is a tribute to the train. And with this train a journey commences in the prewar years in the deep Mississippi Delta. Traveling north we see the Great Migration, the second World War is handled and it ends somewhere in the clouds. When listening it is evident the music is deeply rooted in blues and is in fact an exponent of bluesrock. But still something is different, it is not the bluesrock we are used to. With the use of the 64-note harmonies it all sounds a bit different. The singing also is different. Borden's upperscale voice forms a great counterpoint to Catler's low growling. Close your eyes and you hear something that resembles Jefferson Airplane, but is further absolutely unique. But with songs like the opener “Sittin' In The Train Station” and Robert Johnson's “Love In Vain”, being the only cover here, you are upto your ankles in de Mississippi mud. My favorite song is “Down The Road”, just because of the great guitar picking. Unfortunately the last six minutes is a kind of mechanical racket. Without a doubt it belongs to the journey, but after having listened to it once the other times I just skipped it.


It takes some getting used to, but the more I listened the better it became. The unique guitar playing of Jon Catler is just simply fabulous, there is no other word for it. Willie McBlind is at least a band who dares to look up the limits and is able to expand these. Apart from the mechanical drone at the end this is just an excellent album.

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