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Jay Willie Blues Band - The Reel Deal

Blues Boulevard Records, a division of Music Avenue (Europe)

8 songs; 26:09 minutes

Styles: Electric Blues Rock

It’s impossible to overstate guitar’s role in making modern Blues the genre it is today. Especially since electrification, without guitar, whether a Dobro, a Stratocaster, Les Paul, acoustic, or steel, a blues song is almost missing its backbone. Connecticut-based Jay Willie and his band embrace this truth in their third release, “The Reel Deal”! Out of eight songs, half are originals, and the other four are catchy covers. Fans might have a hard time deciding which type of Jay Willie’s great selections they prefer--fresh or familiar? However, they’ll know the band’s guitar work is top-notch with Jay Willie on lead, Robert Callahan on rhythm (and vocals), and legendary Tommy Shannon adding bass. Here are three tracks showcasing lightning licks by our lead guitarist and schooled chops from his three band mates featuring Johnny Winter’s 1978 power trio drummer Bobby “T” Torello:

Track 01: “Hey Hey Baby”--The opener on any blues album may not be the most lyrically deep. On the other hand, it usually needs to abduct the most attention, as this original song does. Its fast paced, rough-and-tumble beat is the perfect backdrop for every instrument to roar full-blast, especially Jay Willie’s Johnny Winter inspired slide guitar and including Bobby “T” Torello’s cymbals. The band’s MySpace page states, “Jay Willie is personally influenced by Johnny Winter and his [Winter’s] influences such as Son House, Willie Brown, Muddy Waters, etc.” One can definitely hear the echo of these masters’ styles in this number!

Track 04: “Mary Lou”--Winning this reviewer’s award for best cover as well as funniest song, Ronnie Hawkins’ “Mary Lou” is the tale of a thief who’s more into snatching people’s possessions than their hearts. When she’s done taking the narrator--in this case sung by Robert Callahan--for all he’s worth, he sings, “She got back in town about a week ago; said she was sorry she had hurt me so. I had a ‘65 Ford and a two-dollar bill. The way she took it, man, gave me a thrill!” Perhaps anybody else in Callahan’s position might have rhymed “bill” with “kill”! In spite of that, “Mary Lou” with its catchy twin guitar harmony will steal listeners’ ears!

Track 06: “Liar”--Drummer Bobby “T” Torello penned and takes the lead on vocals in this frenetic blues-rock punch to an untrue lover’s face. As he gleefully rhymes an unprintable word with “you know you gotta quit” and warns that the “Liar” in the song’s title will go “straight down to [perdition],” blues fans will sit up and take heed. Even though this isn’t a romantic rendition by any stretch of the imagination, this up-tempo slide-fest tirade might lead (faithful) partners onto the dance floor anyway!

This CD is definitely enjoyable, but, in this reviewer’s opinion, has three minor flaws: 1) it’s too short, clocking in at under 30 minutes; 2) the vocals could have been more vibrant in the mix, and 3) while appreciating their energy, I rarely had the sense that Willie and his band got completely lost in the music they’re playing. Nevertheless, their guitar skills and overall punch are “The Reel Deal!”

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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