BLUES REVUE

FEBRUARY/MARCH 2010 ISSUE

CD Review: Willie McBlind - Bad Thing / FreeNote Music

– by Michael Verity

If you're a traditionalist who believes the only way to keep blues alive is to reprise songs in their original forms on accoustic instruments, you probably won't care much for this record. But if you're a musical evolutionist who thinks blues is an art form to be reinterpreted and reappraised, you'll find this second album from four-piece band Willie McBlind intriguing.

"Bad Thing" is a swirling, undulating jam session and a sizzling conflagration of musical styles ranging from Aerosmith to John Coltrane to Willie Dixon.  Take the album's opening instrumental, "13 O'Clock Blues": Though it follows the essential I-IV-V blues progression, guitarist Jon Catler's use of a unique microtuning technique gives the song a mildly dissonant sense of being out of balance.  Similarly, the rhythmic vibe of the title cut bows to the more traditional elements of Johnny Winter, but the guitar and bass textures are Black Sabbath-like in their depth and weight.

"Primo" gives a proper taste of the rhythm section - bassist Neville L'Green and drummer Lorne Watson.  Catler's guitar returns as the centerpiece on "Blood Moon," an indulgent, spooky number with guitar lines punctuated by Catler's vocal growl and singer Meredith Borden's mewl-and-howl harmonies. Borden's vocal dominates "Stones in My Passway," one of the album's funkier cuts: One minute she's uttering a deep, sensual moan, the next she's letting loose an earth-shattering scream. On the Robin Trower-esque "It Don't Make Sense," Borden's vocal soars with the long lines of Catler's guitar.

The album is sufficient in its production values and workman-like in its mix. Producer Catler does yeoman's work behind the board, presenting a soundstage that's well-suited to the record's musicality. Bad Thing might not be earth-shattering, but as an evolutionary approach to the blues, laced with elements of jazz harmonies and hard-rock instrumentation, it's worth a listen.

 

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