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Boy Wells - Blue Skies Calling

Marcel Marsupial Recordings

12 Tracks; 44:24 & 1 mp3; 59:18

Boy Wells may be the next in a short but significant line of “world’s greatest unknown” guitar players from the southern Maryland/Washington, DC area. In the early 70’s it was Roy Buchanan; early 80’s it was Danny Gatton and fast-forwarding to the early twenty-teens, it’s a Gatton protégé – Boy Wells. Widespread success eludes these Maryland pickers, perhaps precisely because they are so good. They master all variations of guitar playing and incorporate many into their writing and performing. It makes for eclectic collections, easily appreciated by musicians and musical aficionados but less so by the general public, especially these days, with a listener’s attention span barely covering the length of an iTunes preview track. Nonetheless, Boy Wells, aka Mark Schultz, unleashes an album of Americana and roots music showcasing his myriad guitar talents and rich singing voice.

Blue Skies Calling is the debut album from a musician who has been toiling away since the late 70’s. It covers as much ground as he has in his years as a traveling musician. The lead-off track is a funky, jazzy instrumental called “Mr. Coluzzi” in which Boy Wells shares the spotlight with the horn section of Bill Watson on sax and Brad Clements on trumpet. Wells’ guitar sizzles over the groove, spreading like lava to every crevice. The fire is stoked by the adroit talents of drummer Bruce Crump, formerly of Molly Hatchet. Molly Hatchet’s full-on, heavy Southern Rock must have been artistically frustrating to Crump, whose playing on Blue Skies Calling expertly ranges from delicate and nuanced to funky and loose.

The record features several instrumental pieces such as “Marcel Marsupial” which is also the namesake of Wells’ recording company. It is a piece that would seem at home on a Phish or Widespread Panic setlist and would probably create excitement from both crowds. It starts off with a chord that sounds like the “The End” by The Doors, some Branford Marsalis style saxophone and soaring slide guitar ala one of Wells’ musical heroes, Duane Allman. The instruments create a musical landscape that ends before it is fully realized, like a backdrop for a movie scene that never happens. At 3:52, this is truly a song that could be pushed to the limits in a live setting and I wish it was longer here.

Title track “Blue Skies Calling” is reminiscent of Saddle Tramp-era Charlie Daniels or classic, mid-70’s Marshall Tucker Band. Open chords, sprawling solos, violin melodies and Boy Wells’ engaging voice tie it all together for a piece of classic, country-style Southern Rock. The record also rides the rails of the South with “World Weary And Blue” which is a rocking slide guitar work out, and “Bring it Back” which sounds a like a lost 90’s Allman Brothers tune. It’s a little bit crunchy with harmonized guitar build-ups, a soulful vocal delivery and blistering solos from Wells and sax-man Bill Watson. The album closes with two bluegrass infused instrumentals featuring fine picking from Becky Taylor on banjo. Wells weaves electric guitar into the mix “Tin Winter” and wraps up the album with the pristine tones of “Traveller.” These two tracks are a resonating reminder that guitar virtuosity is not exclusive to the electric instrument and doesn’t preclude melody, harmony or hum ability.

Blue Skies Calling is not without its straight blues moments. “Devil’s Backbone Blues” is a sublime acoustic slide-guitar piece and “Broke Down” is two minutes and seventeen seconds of pure bent note blues, vaguely reminiscent of Roy Buchanan. Much of the album though is reminiscent of the more laid back Southern Rock from the mid 70’s mixed with strategically more succinct elements of the modern jam band scene. The Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker Band, and Charlie Daniels Band all combined bits and pieces of blues, country, jazz and rock to make unique, individualized music under the flag of Southern Rock, a term which is unfortunate and redundant since Rock & Roll was born in the Southern US anyway. Boy Wells explores the same territory as the genre’s founding fathers and adds his own twists and sly tips of the hat to New Orleans and Memphis.

Boy Wells offers up an eclectic disc, but there is a blues thread that binds most of it together. It’s easy to say this is an “Americana” album and in many respects it’s true, but categorizing music is something the record companies do so the stores can fit the product in neat little bins. So what kind of record is this? It’s a good record and if you appreciate fine musicianship and memorable songs you’re in for a treat.

Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit

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