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Joel DaSilva & The Midnight Howl – The Midnight Howl

Self Release

10 tracks; 40:43 minutes

Joel DaSilva’s got guts. In his new CD, The Midnight Howl (named for his band), this South Florida-based guitarist/singer/songwriter tackles a new band and a new genre, but that’s not all. He offers up a slate of (nearly all) original songs, in a variety of blues styles. Only one track, “Who Knows,” is not original, but a funky, well-handled Jimi Hendrix cover. The other nine are all written or co-written by DaSilva.

This former front man of the Hep Cat Boo Daddies, a successful rock-n-blues/rockabilly band, would not see his foray into the blues as tackling a new genre. Being born and raised in Chicago, he sees it as a return to his roots; and his blues expertise is evident in his songwriting and performance. Stylistically, this CD runs the gamut from standard 12-bar to slide, boogie, you name it; and, in my opinion, those cuts on The Midnight Howl that depart the furthest from the basic blues formula are my favorites.

The third track “Hard Time,” which DaSilva co-wrote with Albert Castiglia, is a slide song so swampy, you can almost feel the humidity. It’s reminiscent of “Man of Constant Sorrow” from the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou?; though the vocals carry hints of Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s “Blue On Black.” It’s a great song and would indicate that more collaboration with Castiglia might be a smart move.
“Boogie Real Low” features a powerful lead guitar and a strong baseline that feel almost dangerous. This feeling is reinforced by the echo on the vocals, which serves to transport you to a dark, nighttime place where only grown-ups are allowed to venture.

DaSilva came from a family of performers: his mother a singer, his father a guitarist who died when Joel was only 3. Track 6, “Heart of My Father,” is a moving homage to DaSilva’s late father. It is also an opportunity for father and son to perform together. Through the magic of modern sound mixing, DaSilva’s father’s guitar work is heard in the intro and outro of this song.

“For Don” is one of two instrumentals on this CD and another tribute song – this time for Don Cohen, DaSilva’s manager who died of a brain tumor. It features a slow, greasy slide and an unmistakable moodiness. DaSilva promised Don that he’d win a Grammy someday and dedicate it to him. If he keeps producing songs like this one, he just might.

If the purpose of the first cut on a CD is to peak your interest and draw you in, “Let’s Not Fight, Let’s Make Some Love” did not seem like the best choice. To me, it felt like your average bar-band song, and not nearly as remarkable as some of the cuts that follow it. My choice for lead-in song would be “Boogie Real Low,” which would get things moving and hook listeners right off the bat.

I also occasionally had trouble meshing DaSilva’s voice with the blues, where I’m accustomed to a bit more rasp and gravel. His sound is almost too “nice.” However, he does seem to have the right feel for the music, and I’m sure he’ll grow into it, given time. Plus, his clean tenor voice seemed especially well suited to the 4th cut, a ballad called “Try.”

Yes, Joel DaSilva does have guts. He’s made some brave choices on this CD, but I think it will pay off. Overall, The Midnight Howl is an excellent debut album, and I think we’ll be hearing more from Mr. DaSilva in the future. I also get the impression that DaSilva’s band gives a killer live performance, so here’s hoping he occasionally ventures out of South Florida to give us all a chance to howl.

Reviewer Sheila Skilling is a self-professed “blues fan by marriage,” who was hooked by her husband’s musical preferences, but reeled in by the live performances of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy and others. She lives in the Minneapolis area.

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