Friday, December 11, 2020

Andy Watts - Supergroove

If you haven’t heard of Andy Watts before – and I certainly hadn’t – it’s probably because the guitar-toting bluesman is from Israel.  But Watts has still managed to rack up plenty of collaborations and performances with high profile blues artists, some of whom contribute to his latest album Supergroove – not least Kenny Neal, who co-produced the album for his Booga Music label.  And what they’ve cooked up is an enjoyable collection of soul food blues.
Watts demonstrates his credentials from the off on the title track, a swinging instrumental on which his guitar tone, both rhythm and lead, smacks of Stevie Ray Vaughan à la ‘Crossfire’.  
Andy Watts meets a superfan
With a relaxed groove enhanced by funky horns, Watts delivers some tasty soloing, but also shares the limelight with band members Eyal Klein on Hammond organ and Ioram Linker on baritone sax.  And that sorta-SRV vibe returns on the penultimate track ‘Raw’, its bubbling riff lifted into rockin’ mode by some crunching chords, while Watts adds a twisting and turning solo and Gadi Altman catches the mood with a punchy vocal.
A rather different vocal adorns the best track on the album, with guest Joe Louis Walker behind the mic – and at his soulful best - for the slow blues of ‘Burning Deep’, giving real feeling to the melody over low undercurrents of horns and organ, and some exquisite guitar commentary from Watts.  And on a song previously recorded by Walker, ‘Blues Of The Month Club’, Eliza Neals provides another impressive guest vocal, adding a sly and slinky layer to a typical blues tale of everyday disaster, ironically to the accompaniment of more swinging horns and relaxed lead guitar from Watts.
There’s more variety in the form of the Rick Estrin song ‘Living Hand To Mouth’, a burst of bopping R’n’B suitably embellished by harp from Coastin Hank, and some hop-along bass from Tom Mochiach.  It’s one of three songs delivered by the cracked, groaning voice of Roy Young, the best of which is ‘Don’t Take My Blues Away’, a slower affair on which he draws out the emotion well, augmented by imaginative intertwining of guitar and trumpet from Watts and Gregory Rivkin.  Less successful is the cover of the sometime Freddie King tune ‘Pack It Up’, which feels run-of-the-mill in spite of Klein’s funky clavinet lines.
Rather better are the sunny and easy-going ‘Straight Shooting Woman’ and the soul-lite ‘Don’t You Let Me Down’, both smoothly voiced by Danny Shoshan.  The former contrasts lush horns with a strong, wiry solo from Watts, while the latter tones down a Bo Diddley rhythm and throws some curiously blissed out backing vocals into the mix.
The closing highlight though, is a version of Peter Green’s ‘Supernatural’.  Over the pulsing, semi-Latin rhythm, Watts really steps up with some elegant guitar befitting the tune, backed up by Rivkin’s trumpet as they both get in the reflective zone together, and Klein adds some subtle, halting organ.  It’s a rendition good enough to have left me wanting more.
Supergroove is a well put together, entertaining album, and Watts' playing is often impressive, though the material veers a bit close to the middle of road at times.  But with the benefit of a couple of standout tracks in ‘Burning Deep’ and ‘Supernatural’, it’s an album that should make Andy Watts’ name more familiar to blues fans.

Supergroove is out now on Booga Music in association with the Vizztone label group.

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