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Willie May - Stone Blue


10 tracks

I got this CD and immediately thought of the Big Bill Broonzy song "Willie Mae", which has in fact has nothing to do with this artist. So now that that is cleared up, Willie May hails from Buffalo area, is a five time Buffalo Area Music Award winner and was voted Western New York Blues Beat Magazine's Band of the Year. From his minimalist web site, "Willie May has performed in basements, barns, garages, street corners, speak-easies, house trailers, preschool, high school, colleges, radio, television, bars, concert halls, outdoor festival arenas, and inside Attica prison." That for sure is certainly a wide variety of types of venues to have played!

May has written all ten cuts here and sings and plays guitar, bass and kalimba. Joining him are a variety of artists, including Jim Whitford on upright bass, Ken Parker on sax, Kevin Espinosa on harp, Kenny Peterson on pedal steel, Mark Garcia on drums, Owen Eishensen on drums, organ and guitar, Randy Bolanm on drums  Ron Kain on guitar and Tom Corsi on bass.

The CD has it's minimalistic points, with May growling and groaning out vocals and adding a touch here and a touch there to give his stuff an authentic sound. "Stranger in My House" is straight up traditional twelve bar blues in an A A B format. Parkers sax sells this one, alternating the lead with Willie's vocals. I enjoyed this track because of the sax despite it's simplicity. The instrumental "Hola Teresa" is also cool, with electric guitar, trumpet and the highway driving beat along with some fun percussive stuff mixed in. The final cut, "Old Frinds" is one of the "bigger" numbers sound-wise, with a muddy electric guitar sound and lots of pieces and parts, with crowd sounds and cheering to boot. A little odd, but fun.

"Made in the Shade" has a reggae sort of beat to it for a change of pace. "Don't Do That No More" has a big drum and bass back line sound where the percussion also sets the tone. Willie goes out west with "Where Did We Go Wrong"; the pedal steel gives it the full effect, with the growling Willie trying to twang and ferociously pick along with the wail of the pedal steel.

May gives it his all. Vocally, he's quite raw and gruff sounding when he wants to be. That's probably the weakest part of the album. The songs are good and the orchestrated pieces always interesting. The instrumentals are all well done and balanced. I am sure Willie has a following with his live shows who are big into the good sized catalog of music on his site. A good mix of acoustic, electric and lots of other stuff is presented here, something in a style for everyone.

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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