Album review: BILLY WALTON BAND – Wish For What You Want

BILLY WALTON BAND – Wish For What You Want

self release [Release date August 2014]

Things may come and things may go but there’s always a better than average chance that the New Jersey shore line will periodically produce a band worth spending your leisure time on.

The Billy Walton band is such a band. Sure they’ve taken the long way round with 4 albums and an EP already under their belt, but ‘Wish For What You Want’ is a notable step up as they have nailed their soulful blues style.

The emphasis is on strong songs, deep grooves, Billy’s confident vocal performance and his subtle tone colours, while the band’s sparkling interplay is framed by a top class production from Tony Braunagel and a crisp mix by the famed John Porter.

Above all, this is the album on which the band comes of age. The magnificent horn section of Ian Gray on trombone and Sean Marks on sax, fits perfectly into a succession of tight arrangements that are given a solid foundation by rigorous rhythm section of drummer Johnny D’Angelo and bassist William Paris.

Mike Finnegan’s B3 feature sets the standard on the opening title cut and Billy responds with a deep solo over a fabulous horn arrangement and some climatic band interplay

And then of course there’s the fast growing song writing partnership of Billy Walton and Randy Friel. Friel produced the band’s previous album, and his lyrics lock in perfectly with Billy’s bristling style.

The band’s new found confidence is evident on the subtle drop-down of the title track, while the album as a whole also stretches their musical horizons, with elements of funk, soul, blues rock & roll and simply great songs.

‘True Lovin Man’ is a perfect example, being a classic Robert Cray style melody with real commercial possibilities and it’s matched by the soulful, piano led ‘Til Tomorrow’.

The Billy Walton band is a powerhouse outfit that operates within soulful, funky, blues and rock & roll parameters, but ‘Wish For What You Want’ is their most mature and convincing work.

They explore a musical equilibrium that suites their style without sacrificing their natural exuberance. And when they do rock out as on ‘Come On Up’, they suitably build up the tension and then resolve it with a tightly wrapped, clean toned solo from Billy.

Southside Johnny adds some lyrical blues-harp alongside Billy’ dobro on the down-home ‘Blues Comes A Knockin’, which is neatly juxtaposed by ‘Forgive’ And Forget’ a killer funky groove with a Hendrix style sculpted wah-wah solo and powerful horn lines.

This is the Billy Walton band at it’s most imperious as they effortlessly weave in and out of the groove. It’s also a live in the studio track that fuses spark and polish to great effect.

There’s a change of pace and tone on the cool atmospheric groove of ‘Change’, which is built on a John D’Angelo neat drum pattern. It’s a reflective piece on which Billy’s voice is mixed slightly back as he contributes a nicely distorted solo.

He switches to slide on ‘Worried Blues’ a meditative piece on contemporary times that could have been extended, while ‘Hudson County Star’ is a parody of two recently disgraced New Jersey major’s.  The song is voiced with a country tinged roadhouse rock feel, with Stones’ ‘Exile On Mainstream’ influences before exploding into a bulldozing barrelhouse piano and slide guitar finish.

‘Wish For What You Want’ is an aptly titled, as the band could surely not have asked for a better circumstances, with their best ever European tour matching their best album.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra


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