Brad Wilson - Blues Thunder

The problem with playing, performing recording "blues" in the 21st Century is that if the artist/musician strays too far from the orginal form it becomes "rock" and if they adhere too tightly to the constrains of the few rhythms, keys, tempos and grooves that are instantly identifiable as "blues" they become traditionalists or revivalists. Brad Wilson is an excellent vocalist, producer, composer and guitarist who walks that tightrope expertly with his fourteenth or fifteenth album "Blues Thunder." With gentle hints of Eric Johnson & Eric Clapton's guitar styles, matched with the cool of Don Henley's California vocal style, Wilson's new album confidently reflects a collection of songs inspired by Ray Charles, Freddie King - and even the Meters' ("Hey Pocky A-Way" on "Let's Go Barefootin' it").

"Change it Up" allows Wilson to chase a restrained Santana groove - already mined by a host of other great guitar players, the first couple of which that come to mind are Matt Schofield and Ronnie Earl, I think a greater contrast with the rest of the album on this song might have been helped by bringing the great organ playing further up in the balance.

"Sugar Sweet" is the most adventurous blues production on the album set in ghostly chorus vocals has a solid swinging groove over which the lead vocals and guitar elbow each other for attention. "Never Again" closes the album as the most powerful track that intelligently contrasts the calm of Wilson's voice over a wall of guitars and his Gary Moore-esque squalling electric guitar over and across the drums. I suspect that this (and most of the songs on this album) make an even better impact on the listener in a live setting where Wilson's lead guitar work could (and would) be louder in the mix and afford him more room to burn - but as a self-producing artist he's taken great pains not to overshadow the entire ensemble or even the compositions too much - his guitar playing deserves here more of a focussed spotlight than he's given it. Perhaps while shooting for radio-play Wilson has delivered a very fine album that as fans - we'd actually rather prefer to hear live and in concert.

"Step by Step" echoes the original John Mayall's Bluesbreakers lineup with Wilson's Les Paul matched against expertly played harmonica and more driven vocals. His Chicago blues guitar playing style here is spot on - and again I wish he'd been given much more space (and volume!) - bear in mind we're listening to this album out of context with respect to the rest of Brad Wilson's discography - but the entire album "Blues Thunder" covers all the sonic terrain modern blues guitar should both own and speak to, this album is an excellent addition to any blues afficionado's collection, the more I listen to it - the more I like it. I think I'd better go out and buy all his live albums now. Brad Wilson needs and deserves more National Radio play.

Check out his tour dates online here and hope that he'll come to a town near you!

— Conrad Warre


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