Provogue [Release date 25.01.13]
Bart Walker’s ‘Waiting On Daylight’ was almost lost in the shuffle earlier on in the year, but now looks set to benefit from the apparent renaissance of Southern rock.
If it isn’t Royal Southern Brotherhood and their members cutting acclaimed solo albums, or Skinny Molly raising hell across Europe, then its Warren Haynes with Govt Mule to remind us that the South’s proud musical heritage is very much alive. And now comes Bart Walker, who mines some familiar Southern Rock influences on a polished album.
From the opening tightly wrapped funk and Allman Brothers influenced ‘It’s All Good’, to his own meditative arrangement of ‘Whipping Post’, he wears his influences proudly on his sleeve. There’s some outright ZZ Top style riffs on the wry Pat McLaughlin penned ‘Took It Like A Man’, and some tough Texas boogie underpins ‘Gotta Be You’, on which Bart finds his soul mate. There’s even some borrowed dirgy Big Sugar riffs on ‘Girl You Bad’, and echoes of the Arc Angels on ‘Black Clouds’, as he works his way through a well crafted album.
He overtly references Warren Haynes twice on the dual guitar-led ballad ‘Waiting On Daylight’ – complete with a ringing tone and a defining refrain which isn’t too far removed from Warren’s ‘Soulshine’ – and the swampy, dirt tone and searing slide of ‘Mary & Me’, which is one of his best songs.
He also adds some Elmore James style slide guitar on his own arrangement of J.B. Hutton’s ‘Hip Shake It’, but were these to be the only elements on offer, you would still have to say the dude’s got good musical taste to match an emotive baritone voice.
But Bart Walker is a rarity. He’s a blues rocker with something to say, who is unafraid to search within himself as well as being open to social commentary. The poignant ‘99%’ for example, is predicated on some scorching guitar and a heartfelt sentiment: ‘We are the, we are the 99%, We are the, we are the ones to take a stand. We are the, we are the 99%. We are the ones who can make this land to dream again.’
His ascending guitar line perfectly evokes the sentiment of the song, and it’s a great example of how he varies his playing to achieve different moods, feels and dynamics, on an album that positively bristles with spirited playing.
Bart’s changes of tone, attack and intensity marks him out as special, and it can only be a matter of time before Bart Walker steps out with his own sound.
He’s about to tour again with the Blues Caravan and this album’s blend of rock, blues, boogie, southern rock, ballads and stellar solos will surely find a receptive European audience. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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