Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Quickies - Lee Rocker, Jed Potts & The Hillman Hunters, Wily Bo Walker, and Fred Hostetler

Lee Rocker – Gather Round

I do like a bit of rockabilly now and then, stemming from a long-held affection for the Stray Cats.  And when I heard that this solo outing by the Cats’ bassist Lee Rocker included a take on the marvellous ‘Everybody Wants To Be A Cat’, from the Disney movie The Aristocats I enjoyed as a young kid, a quick download purchase became a necessity.
And lo, the rendition of ‘Everybody Wants To Be A Cat’ is real cool, man, with lots of low-down,
Lee Rocker - have dirty great bass, will travel!
twangy stand-up bass and a nicely crooned vocal from the Rocker fella.  Being honest, I wanted Rocker and his gang to break loose and get all hot-diggity-dog on it, but no matter – there’s plenty of rock’n’roll elsewhere!
The opening ‘Gather Round’ is a prime example, swinging and uptempo, with rockin’ slap bass from Rocker, honky tonk piano from Matt Jordan, and bright, jangling guitar from Buzz Campbell.  And there’s more upbeat entertainment on the likes of ‘Pickin’ And Grinnin’’, featuring a little firecracker of a guitar solo, with Rocker’s bass racing after it, and the rattling ‘Dog House Shuffle’, with its shoutalong chorus and even a brisk bass break.  And if it seems a bit odd to include ‘When Nothing’s Going Right’, which featured on the Stray Cats’ 2019 album 40, it still cuts the mustard.
Rocker and co are dab hands at mellower rock’n’roll pop toons too, like the dreamy ‘The Last Offline Lovers’, with its warm acoustic guitar and neatly trilling descending guitar line, and the romantic ‘Every Time I See You’, a good melody enhanced by neat harmonies and a nifty little key change.
Gather Round is no magnum opus.  It’s ten tracks and half an hour of innocent, energetic fun, and that’ll do nicely Lee, thanks very much!
Jed Potts & The Hillman Hunters – Swashbucklin’

Scottish guitarist Jed Potts and his trio the Hillmans specialise in late Fifties/early Sixties style blues, and with the absence of live work in the last year they’ve used the time to develop a bundle of new songs.  ‘Swashbucklin’’ is the second in a series of singles featuring this original material, and it’s the kind of good-rockin-tonite blues that’s right in their wheelhouse.
Jed Potts - good rockin' tonite!
With a shuffling rhythm from drummer Jonny Christie and walking-type bass from Charlie Wild, it’s got bags of swagger, over which Potts lays down bright, stinging guitar chords, and its amusing lyric about buccaneering behaviour is well-matched by Potts’ zinging, witty soloing.  Check it out for a three-minute injection of swingin’ piratical blues.
‘Swashbucklin’’ is released on 8 February, available to stream on all the usual platforms, and will be available for download from Bandcamp, here.
Wily Bo Walker – I Want To Know

Gravel-voiced troubadour Wily Bo Walker has also released a new single, ‘I Want To Know’, previously included on his album Moon Over Indigo and now recast in slinky funk style.  It’s all grooving bass, flickers of wah-wah guitar, and cool female backing vocals from Karena K as the foundation for Walker’s deep, Waits-like groan of the film noir-ish lyric.  Then there’s icing on the cake in the form of a fuzzy-but-piercing Latin-tinted guitar solo courtesy of Mike Ross, and soul-funk Hammond organ from the inimitable Stevie Watts.

'I Want To Know' was released by Mescal Canyon Records on 22 January.
Fred Hostetler – Fred’s Blue Chair Blues

It’s one man and his guitar time with this nine-track collection of acoustic blues from California’s Fred Hostetler.
Hostetler eases in with Jimmy Reed’s ‘Bright Lights, Big City’, introducing himself in relaxed fashion with pleasant vocals and a warm acoustic guitar sound, to which he adds some nice flourishes as the song progresses.
His voice is his Achilles’ heel over the course of the album though, his lack of strength and resonance soon making themselves evident on ‘Hey Corporate Vandals’, an otherwise okay bit
Fred Hostetler and friend
of acoustic boogie, with a guitar figure that recalls ‘The Boy From New York City’.  And the lack of vocal attack also detracts from his intricate slide playing on ‘Deep, Deep Well’, a decent blues tune that I could imagine turning out very well if amped up by the likes of Savoy Brown.  (Hostetler was once a member of rhythm’n’bluesers Blue By Nature, so he has an understanding of muscular blues.)
There’s a tendency to long-windedness on ‘Rain On My Window Pane’ and ‘I’m A New Man’, though the former actually improves as it goes on, emerging from a so-so blues, via good guitar-picking and interesting slide work, into a good groove around the later choruses.  The latter is uptempo, brisk and cheerful, but Hostetler is straining again vocally, and as it descends into a rather dull bridge it outstays its welcome by a good minute.
Conversely, one of the best tracks is the eight-minute long ‘Taming The Wolf’, a slow blues with a spoken intro and simple guitar chords that develops into an interesting, ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ type tale of turning away from pride and confrontation, with a faster section spicing it up.  Meanwhile, in rather shorter mode, the other highlight is ‘There I Go Again’, a simple, country-ish slowie with a pleasing melody, that brings to mind Willie Nelson.
“This is what I call ‘Living Room Blues’,” Hostetler has said of Fred’s Blue Chair Blues, and the album certainly has that kind of intimate feel.  There are some decent songs in here, and Hostetler’s guitar playing is often pleasing, but I’m left with the feeling that if he’d brought in a genuine vocalist it would have given the whole enterprise a big lift.

Fred's Blue Chair Blues is out now, and available here.

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