29 May 2016

Wily Bo Walker: Moon Over Indigo

Wily Bo Walker and his wonderful cooperative of high pedigree musical colleagues have produced yet another smart, dark and entertainingly written album. If you have even just half an ear for poetry and a beautiful musical walk on the dark side of the street, then this is the album for you.

The continual review comparisons with Tom Waits' vocals must get a bit tedious for Bo - as he has very much his own distinctive voice, powerful, passionate, occasionally poignant - and sounding steeped in Scottish burr and best malt. A better comparison might be with the lyrics which tend to occupy that dark ground on the edge of wry bitterness, (a favourite camping site for Tom) where dark forces are at work, mystery abounds, and devastated love and loss get the full cynical works. Everywhere you look or listen there are dark streets in the moonlight, tears in the rain and in the excellent title track 'Moon Over Indigo', final farewells.

Apart from a Willie Dixon cover ('Same Thing') and the final track - a spirited up-beat version of 'Who Do You Love', all the tracks are written or part-written by Bo himself. This is where the album is at its most telling and eloquent. When, surrounded by some huge sympathetic arrangements, including some phenomenal wrap-around backing vocals led by KareƱa K and frequent cool and solid brass, Bo delivers some unforgettable killer lyrics. One particular track, 'Jenny' a lament to someone lost, brings a voice of huge passion to a sad story – and you would need a hard heart to resist a line like “now that you've gone I can't say all the things I wanted to say to you”...majestic.

One of the best things about the musical arrangements on this album – grateful thanks to Grammy award winning producer Danny Flam – is how comfortably Bo's distinctive voice sits in the middle of all that is going on. Different tracks get sometimes launched by a solid drum beat, maybe a slide guitar or some sock-it-to-me brass with a dashing trumpet solo – everyone gets to have good time – and it shows. The ten tracks on the album are all refreshingly different and effective in their own right but the lyrics and Bo's voice meld them into a totally engaging story. The third album of 2015 and these guys just go on pulling super-good stuff out of their magic music bag.