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Victor Wainright And The Wildroots – Lit Up!

WildRoots Records

14 tracks; 53.09 minutes

Pianist and singer Victor Wainright hails from Memphis and made quite a splash with his first CD “Beale Street To The Bayou” a couple of years back since when he has been touring constantly. “Lit Up!” was recorded in Edgewater, Florida, reunites most of the team that made the first CD and consists of entirely original material. Victor plays piano, sings all lead vocals and wrote half the material; Stephen Dees plays bass, produced the CD and wrote the other half of the material; Greg Gumpel plays guitar, Patricia Ann Dees tenor sax and backing vocals, Ray Guiser tenor sax and clarinet, Billy Dean drums. The horns are supplemented by Charlie DeChant on tenor, baritone and saxcello, Bob Dionne on trombone and Ken Titmus on trumpet, harmonica is added by Mark “Muddyharp” Hodgson and Hammond by Chris Stephenson.

Victor has a strong voice, with just the right amount of gruffness to convince on songs like the opener “Big Dog’s Runnin’ This Town”, a fast paced shuffle which rocks along with the horns pushing hard and the piano pounding. “Busted flat in New York, down on your luck, now ain’t it a pity. Got a one way ticket on a ship of fools. Look out little dog, it’s time you learned the rules” is an extract from the lyrics from this great opener to the CD. “Ting Bang Bong” features harp on a pounding blues which conjures up the ghost of Howling Wolf. I particularly liked “Subliminal Criminal”, a slice of New Orleans with great piano and a strong chorus line: “Subliminal criminal don’t give a damn, got the whole world in the palm of his hands”.

“Walk Away My Blues” is a mid-paced blues and the longest cut on the disc. The horns support the rhythm and the piano takes the main solo. A real change of pace occurs with “Dixie Highway” which features acoustic guitar, bass and growling harp, a song that reminisces about the South, and “Weeds”, another acoustic tune with clarinet to the fore. Here the song talks of the hard work involved in working the land: “Dig down deep, plant them seeds, without hard work nothing grows but weeds.”

“Little Ole’ Shack” is a song about a remote juke joint which sounds like a great place to spend an evening: “A little ‘ole shack up on the hill about a half a mile from the whiskey still. The preacher won’t like it, but your daddy sure will” is an example of the lyrics on this nicely rocking piece. Title track “Lit Up!” is a song about being not just in love but aflame with desire. The harp features as a support to the vocal and the piano takes the main solo with the horns in close support. “Our Last Goodbye” is a far more somber piece, the Hammond providing gentle support and Victor’s vocal really expressing the pain of the ruptured relationship: “I believe it’s a sin, you know it’s a crime to waste each other’s life living a lie. Living in denial is no way to live, just lay it on the line now, something’s got to give. Look me in the eye, it’s time for our last goodbye.” “Don’t Doubt It ‘ce est bon’” makes a good contrast in tone with its positive chorus about enjoying what you have. “Coin Operated Woman” is an amusing song, a cautionary tale of the lady friend who is costing Victor all his money. A frantic pace on the piano sets the tone and the horns bounce off the riff of this fun piece. “Pile Of Blues” is another acoustic piece with harp, brushes on the drums and acoustic bass. “I can’t begin to tell you about the state I’m in. I had way too much to drink last night; can’t quite remember what I did but I’m sure it wasn’t right” sets the tone for Victor who has “stepped in a big pile of blues”!

“Honky Tonk Heaven” is a terrific foot stomper, a real boogie woogie workout on the piano for Victor, the horns baying along, a song about another of those legendary clubs: “Tell Saint Peter it’s all right, the pearly gates are coming down tonight; we’re going to raise a little hell in Honky Tonk Heaven tonight.” A superb tenor sax solo precedes more rocking boogie piano on what is probably the standout track on the CD for me. Final track “Let It Be The Same” is a ballad that is all Victor, just piano and voice. It is a strong, emotional song which deserves to be heard but I did not think that Victor’s voice is quite strong enough to carry the song alone.

I liked the variety of this well recorded CD which is full of excellent songs and performances. Victor has a big personality on stage that comes across on this record. I would expect this CD to further cement his reputation as one of the rising stars of the blues world.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and is currently planning his trip to the Blues Blast Awards in October.

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