Blues To Do Monthly

 

review of Willie McBlind's debut CD, Find My Way Back Home

 

www.bluestodo.com

June 2007
by Chris Morda

 

 

 

For many, being a blues artist is a constant struggle between the desire to embrace a tradition while creating something truly original and modern. On their debut album, Find My Way Back Home , Willie McBlind takes this approach to a level that few artists in the blues realm have explored.   The band, co-led by guitarist/vocalist Jon Catler and vocalist Babe Borden is a re-invention of the lost and little known tradition of the male/female blues duet tradition best exemplified by pre- World War artists such as Blind Willie Johnson and Blind Willie McTell and their various accompanists.   Willie McBlind also breaks the mold of the Western Twelve Tone Equal Tempered scale by using instruments based on Nature's scale, a 64 note per octave musical system based on notes directly derived from the Harmonic Series. Catler's compositions in this tuning system create a truly unique aural experience, introducing true consonances, microtonal variations, and magical cascading harmonic clouds.

 

The album starts off with an instrumental, Chicken, that features a riff reminiscent of the 60's organ trio classic, Back at the Chicken Shack and features Catler's custom guitar, with its unique fretting system that features the aforementioned 64 note octave.   The end of the tune introduces the magic of the tuning system with a long sustained chord that is both consonant and dissonant at the same time. Canonballer, is a take on a musical canon (a composition that employs a melody with one or more imitations of the melody played after a given duration) and features interchanging vocables and guitar lines.   Catler and Borden alternate vocal verses on the slow blues grind of Find My Way which also features a haunting guitar solo and long sustained vocal choruses.  Hope My Baby, the first of two boogie tracks on the recording, once again finds Catler and Borden exchanging vocal verses and features the 12 Tone Ultra Plus guitar, which is constructed in a way that has some of the notes from Nature's Scale in combination with the normal western 12 Tone Equal Tempered Scale.   Shallow Gray is a slow blues and features an extended "cloud section" during the solo break.

Pony Blues , a Charley Patton number and the 6th track on the cd, starts out as a country blues and then morphs into an all out country western hoe down before winding back down.   Train is a strait ahead blues rocker featuring my favorite Borden vocal performance of the ten songs. Fall features fretless guitar which is unaccompanied at the beginning and also featured in an extended 60's psychedelic inflected solo during this heavy riff oriented tune.   Every Time, another musical canon form, features haunting interplay between Catler's guitar and Borden's voice and an outstanding guitar solo break. Time Ain't Long, the closer of the set, features an extended feedback drenched "cloud" section on the 12 Tone Ultra Plus before morphing into an anthematic blues rocker.

I found this album a very enjoyable listen. While the tuning system is quite different than most western ears are accustomed to there's a familiar feeling, like meeting a family member for the first time.   The wide range of blues styles, along with the adventurous and oftentimes otherworldly guitar and vocals make this a transcending blues and musical experience.

 

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