Review: Victor Wainwright and the WildRoots – Beale Street To The Bayou

Posted on: Thursday, Dec 3, 2009



“Beale Street To The Bayou”

(WildRoots Records: CD2009)

Here’s another exciting new name from the USA, the Memphis-based, Savannah, Georgia-born, pianist and singer Victor Wainwright, together with The WildRoots – namely Stephen Dees (bass and guitars), Greg Gumpel (lead guitar) and Brian Kelly (drums) – together combining to make in “Beale Street To The Bayou” an enjoyable gumbo of blues and rock, with some funky, soulful grooves.

Stephen Dees has a major input to this record. The former Pat Travers, Foghat and Todd Rundgren bass player, also produced, arranged and engineered the album, as well as penning the bulk of the 14 tracks here – also adding backing vocals and some guitar.

However Victor Wainwright himself is a fine player and singer, as evident on the opening “Mighty Man”, a rollicking blues with some biting guitar from Greg Gumpel, whose muscular playing is all over the album. The WildRoots hit an irresistible funk groove on “Planet Earth”, with a definite Marvin Gaye feel to it, with nice additional vocal from Nisha Bevins.

The pace is taken down for the acoustic blues of “Sold Down River”, a short piece with Josh Roberts on Dobro, leading into the excellent “Long Way To Go”, with Roberts excelling on electric slide guitar. The lovely “Blues In The Rain” is a standout, with heartfelt, intense vocal from Victor Wainwright and very soulful.

The band get funky again on “What You Want”, a tale of lost love, with Memphis musician Chris Stephenson guesting and soloing on organ, and some fluid bass playing from Stephen Dees. “WildRoot Jam” dips into James Brown territory, with Wainwright’s own organ playing sizzling on this one as the band hit another great groove.

The band rock out on “School Of Hard Knocks”, a co-write between Stephen Dees and former employer, Pat Travers, with incendiary guitar from Greg Gumpel. Wainwright’s fine voice is evident again on the pretty ballad “Not Afraid” – a tale of carrying on after a relationship has ended.

Elsewhere the jazzy “Square” features a co-vocal with Patricia Ann Dees, and sax solo from another guest, Ray Guiser. Wainwright doffs his cap to the legendary Ray Charles on his timeless “What I’d Say”, with the album closing with the title cut – “Beale Street To The Bayou” – a rocking road song of the band’s journey down Highway 61 from Memphis to New Orleans for a gig.

Another fine new name from the USA, and a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging album, well worth checking out – for those who like their blues mixed up. Look out for the name – Victor Wainwright And The WildRoots!



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