ROOTSTIME

Review of Willie McBlind's debut release, Find My Way Back Home


Rootstime

www.rootstime.be
October 2007

(English Translation from Dutch language)

Willie McBlind is a blues band with a very special sound which is not meant for everybody in general, I mean the sound of their recordings is very, very special. Guitar player Jon Catler from New York is somebody who loves to experiment, as well as the singer Babe Borden. Both are supported by bass player Neville L’Green and drummer Lorne Watson. The tracks on this album are mainly inspired by delta blues songs, but they are performed in a surprising, new way. For singer Babe Borden it is easy to sing three octaves and her sound is more like the sound of Diamanda Galas than what we normally expect from a blues singer. They mention vocal acrobatics in their bio, and that is right, but you have to love it. Guitar player Jon Catler is special too. In the bio it is mentioned that he plays guitar in microtones and in “just intonation”. Microtones are 64 notes per octave and the just tonalities keep the balance between the notes with natural sounds. It seems that all sounds in nature have the same 64 sound scheme. Can you keep track... well, I don’t. But I have to say Catler’s guitar sounds special, but beautiful. The tracks are re-arrangements of songs of Son House, Howlin Wolf and also from Blind Willie Mc Tell and Blind Willie Johnson, which might have been the inspiration for the name of the band.

It takes a little bit more time to get used to the song lines of Babe Borden, you have to think of her voice as an extra instrument because most of the time she doesn’t use her voice to sing text but to make long tones that wind around the guitar lines, then connects to the guitar sounds, and then sings in unison with the guitar, a good example is "Every Time". In the beginning you really have to get used to this, you might be a little shocked at first, but I noticed after a little while that the style gets into your system. Willie McBlind takes old delta blues and gives it new injections. The sometimes alien guitars and vocals still have the traditional basic blues. If you look at "Pony Blues" from "Charly Patton", it starts as country blues making a smooth transition into a country and western hoedown and then returning to the beginning sound. In "Fall" I like the sound of Catler’s guitar, because his style reminds me of Derek Trucks and he also plays very long sustains which would make Carlos Santana jealous. Also in "Every Time" the guitar sound is beautiful. Like I said before, you have to get used to the singing style of Babe Borden, but with the album "Find My Way Back Home" Willie McBlind delivers a new-sounding, special blues album for listeners who dare to take a risk and are a little tired of the “13 in a dozen” standard 12 measure blues.

 

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