Matty T Wall, Transpacific Blues: Volume One, HipsterDumpster Records
More outstanding stuff from Australian guitar-slinger, Matty Wall. This time an out-and-out blues-rock album featuring classic blues songs and guest appearances from a top-notch line up of artists, including Walter Trout, Eric Gales, Kid Ramos, Kirk Fletcher and Dave Hole.
Down at the Crossroads has been a big fan of Matty Wall since his first album, Blue Skies. He’s an outstanding guitarist and a fine singer, both of these qualities on display in this eight-song outing. Wall more than holds his own with his guest guitarists and the dueting never becomes duelling, it’s just fine musicianship from a talented group of people who love the blues. The guests each have their own style – I could tell from the opening bars that it was Walter Trout playing on She’s Into Something – but with Wall’s own production skills and his own band, the songs cohere well as a set.
Said Wall, “I had an idea that I wanted to do a blues covers album and get some Australian guitar players on board, but didn’t really hear back from anyone. I had a few contacts in the States and managed to get Kid Ramos on board, which is really cool, he’s got a great style, then thought why not try to get my favourite guitar player at the moment who is Eric Gales on the album? Once we got him, we were able to get Walter Trout and Dave Hole was involved from day one, so it turned out to be a US/ Australian thing and I liked the concept so that’s where the name came from.”
Wall and Australian slide maestro, Dave Hole, kick things off with a storming version of John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom, Wall and Hole’s guitars echoing off each other and Wall’s vocals keeping that nice dark edge to the song. Without pausing for breath, he and Eric Gales launch into Hi Heel Sneakers, made famous by Elvis, but here with a nice jazzy feel to the blues, contributed by Mr. Gales. The rest of the songs are a complete treat for any blues fan. Walter Trout’s searing solo, all string bending and singing high notes, on She’s Into Something, famously covered by Muddy Waters, Albert Collins and Robert Cray, is heady stuff. The classic Stormy Monday’s vocals are admirably handled by Wall, as is the guitar work which is both elegant and emotive. (Interestingly, Wall says his favourite version of Stormy Monday is Eva Cassidy’s – good choice, and if you haven’t ever heard it, go check it out: her singing is majestic, the whole arrangement getting right under your skin).
Wall gets a free hand also on Freddy King’s I’m Tore Down and Robert Johnson’s Crossroads, the latter sounding slightly sinister and mysterious. There’s always a danger in covering classic blues songs that are known so well, in sounding tired or simply treading a well-worn path. Wall has avoided that pitfall easily, with his fine band (drummer Ric Whittle and bass player Stephen Walker), his guest musicians and his fresh-yet-classic approach.
All in all this is as good an electric blues album as you’ll hear all year – the only gripe is that it’s so short – eight tracks and a mere 35 minutes. Still quality over quantity every time! And Wall has suggested that Volume 2 might not be too long in coming – something to look forward to.