Stephen Bailey

Stephen Bailey

'Bad Thing' by Willie McBlind

Reviewed by Stephen Bailey –

Posted on 08/28/10 in Recordings

A deceivingly simple blues facade combined with unnerving, microtonal cliffhangers around every measure. Listen to the title track.

Buy Now: Bad Thing (Amazon MP3)

I have always had a soft spot for well-conjured dissonance in music. My philosophy as a player is that, if the instruments are in tune, all else is fair game. What we were taught in school was less music theory than music law.

Those strict, hardbound sets of how things must be have never appealed to me. Even in the area of Jazz, which has sadly been whitewashed into a given style rather than the free-form expression it was meant to be.

So finding folks who work to expand horizons thrills me.



Recently I met Meredith 'Babe' Borden of the band Willie McBlind. We got on the subject of microtonal music and she handed me the band's CD called 'Bad Thing'. As she described to me what they did, how the guitar and vocals interacted, I couldn't wait to hear it.

Straight-ahead blues only describes it in the broadest sense. The sound has a deceivingly simple facade that's combined with unnerving tonal cliffhangers around every measure. The familiar warps quickly with the unexpected.


Photos of Jon Catler and Babe Borden by Joseph Rosen © 2009

There are different ways to achieve a microtonal sound on a guitar. Using slides, scalloping necks, going fretless, pounding the shit out of a tremolo bar, electronic manipulation, etc. All of which are acceptable in my book, if done right.

Willie McBlind guitarist Jon Catler's achieves his sound with the help of a 12-Tone Ultra Plus Guitar. The guitar's tuning system starts with the familiar 12-fret octave in place. Then it adds 12 more frets in between at the natural harmonic points. This now gives that same 12-tone octave the potential for 36 different pitches.

I know, I just got chills too.

Add the shear power of Babe's operatic vocal style waltzing around the rich fullness of the guitar and the solid foundation of the bass and drums and it's a compelling sound to say the least. Do yourself a favor, Buy 'Bad Thing' and go see Willie McBlind live.

See Also:
Willie McBlind
Buy 'Bad Thing'
12-Tone Ultra Plus Guitar

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