Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Wille & The Bandits - Paths

Wille & The Bandits have been knocking around for a few years now, working hard, ploughing their own furrow.  But you know what?  I reckon that with Paths, despite its anodyne title, they’re about to propel themselves a couple more rungs up the ladder.  They’re beardy and they’re bluesy, and they’re delivering roots rock for now, folks.
Opening track ‘One Way’ blasts along on a buzzsaw slide guitar riff from Wille Edwards, allied to a hard-rocking, shoutalong chorus and a slithering slide solo.  If you’re looking for some head-shaking, neck-snapping rock’n’roll, then this fits the bill.  It also features the kind of hippy-ish social commentary that’s their stock in trade, conveyed with conviction and some pleasingly original wordsmithing.  The same ethos is evident on the following ‘Make
Love’, this time set to funk blues with a stuttering rhythm from Andy Neumann’s drums and fuzzy guitar from Edwards, tied together by throbbing bass from Matt Brooks (who elsewhere contributes cello when the vibe demands it).
Wille & The Bandits celebrate a big thumbs up from Blues Enthused
There’s often an edginess redolent of Dan Patlansky, without the same level of Hendrixian guitar fireworks, but on ‘Victim Of The Night’ they also demonstrate an ability to write something with an air of hooky Eighties AOR, aided by some swooping backing vocals and washes of organ, while Brooks’ bass bobs about over a simpler drum groove from Neumann.
It’s in the middle of the album that they really dare to be different though.  ‘Chakra’ features Morse Code-like, African-sounding percussion to complement an offbeat rhythm from Neumann, underneath sweeps of electric Weissenborn lap steel from Edwards.  The following ‘Keep It On The Down-low’ is built on hip-hop funkiness and semi-rapped vocals from Edwards on the verses.  And both songs, it should be noted, have well catchy choruses.
‘Judgement Day’ is apparently inspired by the classic TV series The Wire, and certainly carries echoes of Tom Waits’ ‘Down In The Hole’ which was the show’s theme tune – simple drums and a spiky little guitar line from Edwards leave plenty room for Brooks' bubbling, rumbling bass to shine.  And then they veer away into entirely different territory with ‘How Long’, a plangent, widescreen affair that to these ears has a much more British feel – the sort of thing that post-Britpoppers Doves delivered to good effect a few years back.
‘Watch You Grow’ has an eerie opening that almost begs for Robert Plant to put in a sudden appearance to croon “In the eeeevening”, before it settles into a relaxed and mellow groove involving more World Music percussion from Neumann, and muted, sensitive Weissenborn licks from Edwards, on which the song surfs liltingly to a close.
Closing track ‘Retribution’ has a retro, classic rock vibe that seems to delve back into the Seventies, taking its time then revving up with a soaring slide solo, before turning off the heat with a neat, brief acoustic coda.  But, like the earlier ‘Find My Way’, it’s perhaps an example of where they could have pushed themselves harder to find that little something extra.  Or maybe I’m just being picky.
All told though, Paths is an adventurous album from a trio who have something distinctive to say, both musically and lyrically, and have said it in accomplished fashion.  Good songs, good hooks, good musicianship.  Well played, gentlemen.

Paths is released on 1 February by Fat Toad Records.
Wille & The Bandits are touring Britain in March.  Tickets available from their website here.

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