New Album Review: Wildcat O'Halloran Band
Artist: Wildcat O'Halloran Band
Album: Here Lies A Fool
Wildcat is a wonderful throwback to blues that seems to be influenced by artists that were recorded before the rise of Stevie Ray Vaughan. We all know the impact that SRV had on blues music and guitar playing in particular. To be clear, I love SRV music, but I also equally appreciate a more traditional approach that is closer to a Chicago influence. This space is where I have always heard Wildcat's music. A little less brute force and a little more grease. The raw tone and approach in both Cat's playing and production remind me a bit of the legendary Jelly Roll Kings.
One of the things I always enjoy with the Wildcat recordings is the lyrics. So few artists in the blues genre fancy themselves as lyricists these days. His lyrics have a tongue and cheek quality that is a cross between Chuck Berry and Willie Dixon. There is something fun about his verses, but still quite clever.
The ten song set starts with a song called Blind Love that has an Allman Brothers vibe. It is clear right from the jump that the band is aware of the power of a relaxed groove. There is a looseness to this track that just sits right where it is comfortable, never flirting with rock. They seem to be content just simmering, instead of boiling, which I find quite refreshing.
The title track Here Lies A Fool is a great example of the lyrics that make Cat's recordings different from so many others. He says "I've got a roomful of runner up medallions and I ain't gonna stop cooking spaghetti, just because they tell me that I ain't Italian". It is all rolled into a rumba groove that seamlessly moves in and out of a shuffle. He has a classic approach to the blues, but something that is all his own at the same time. His ability to tell a colorful story is no doubt a big piece in the puzzle.
Outskirts is another track that I really enjoyed. It is a slow burn classic blues that has patience to spare. This song is another one that is so loose that it feels like it is going to fall apart at any second but just doesn't. In some ways they're like a jam band that is casually strolling through the blues and seeing where it takes them. Patiently waiting to see what is around the next 12 bar bend in the path.
This record is a cool mix of old blues covers and Wildcat originals. The playing and writing are raw, tasteful and heartfelt. It has a refreshing simplicity and maturity throughout its entirety. If you like your blues intake on the more traditional side with a songwriters lyrical sense you will likely enjoy this set. I know I did!
Check out this great interview as well...
Tell us the brief history of your band or musical career. After a long career in the Pioneer Valley music scene, where we opened for a who's who of stars (Greg Allman, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker Stray Cats, Charlie Musslewhite, John Mayall, Canned Heat...many more) I returned with this latest iteration of the Wildcat O'Halloran Band in 2010, doing some touring, and gaining some airplay traction.... placing as high as #88 for the year in Blues Radio with last year's Can't Fall Off The Floor.
Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
Albert King (bring the fire, while keeping it simple and direct) Mike Bloomfield (it can be "outside", and still lyrical), Jimi Hendrix ( it can be WAY outside, and still be Blues). As a band leader, Muddy Waters (band interplay) and my mentor James Cotton (band interplay taken to the max!)
What album has had the greatest impact on your life as a musician? Fathers and Sons by Muddy (that audience has discovered the BLUES!!!!)
What song do you remember most from your childhood?
You Don't Know Me by Nat King Cole.......my parents would calm me with Nat when I was small.
What’s your favorite accomplishment as a musician thus far?
Being in the top 100 blues albums for 2021 was pretty awesome...but I'll never forget backing James Cotton with my band during one of his later tours, when his failing voice couldn't front a full time band.
Tell me about your favorite performance in your career.
Originally, the plan for that one was for me to loan my bassist and drummer to James....but Luther Tucker broke a string, and I was waved on with the big man, who called for "a Jimmy Reed in E". Called out to my guys "Boys, that's a shuffle to you!"
How does music affect you and the world around you?
Well, for starters, the place where very different groups of people might have a good time together is, to me, at a blues show. You might think basketball, but there tends to be a "Larry Bird/ Magic Johnson" element to that. Will Smith, my new sax player and I talk about this all the time (he's going for his PHD in African-American studies, and asks me about the "old days"....I answer as best I can)......what we see in audiences is that it doesn't do any good to further emphasize the divisions in this country.....why make them BIGGER? The blues, by definition, needs to be a tent big enough for everyone.
Describe your creative process when you write new music.
Usually, if I can start with a title that sums up my concept, the lyrics will write themselves. Then, it's time to reach into the blues storeroom to see what will support.....and tweak what you have.
What strengths and weaknesses do you have that you believe make you a great musician?
As a guitarist, my goal is always to match skills (and surprises) that make "good blues" with what Muddy called "Deep Blues". I might play over a few more changes (without going "jazz" on you). Vocally, I like this Linda Ronstadt quote: "I think everyone is always insecure about the sound of their voice.....though, if Bonnie Raitt doesn't know she's good, she's really not paying attention"
What's next for your band? On Sept. 3, we head to Virginia, to headline the Tidewater Blues Fest....then race back to Massachusetts, where we will continue to bring the tradition to college kids and boomers of all descriptions......when the weather turns bad, we'll get to work in the studio. As always, Radio Guitar One has been our biggest booster.....we'll have some new tracks for you in 2023!!