Talk about making an entrance: the 2014 debut album from Upstate, NY’s Waydown Wailers launches with all the majestic raggedy-assed ballsiness of an old Faces album. As “Mercy Mercy” begins, we join a shimmering guitar chord, already in process; everybody says hello: another guitar snarls and a barroom pi-any tinkles and cymbals start a’sizzling and a bass rumbles a warning while a B-3 clears its throat.
That shimmering guitar that opened things up then s-s-s-s-s-slides up to the IV chord (and there – right there – is that sound I’m thinking of: one of those fine, fine moments when Rod the Mod stood to the side while rooster-haired Ronnie Wood laid some pipe on the neck of his Zemaitis and bandmates Kenney Jones and Ian McLagen and God-bless-his-soul Ronnie Lane swooped and soared and tumbled right behind him). All hands make the shift upwards, as well – then drop back to the root. (The tune is beginning to simmer now – big, foamy bubbles of sound with a ring of roiling froth around the edges.) Once again up to the IV; back to the I; up to the V chord – a-ha: the blues! – and a cocky sidestep down a notch to the IV … before the whole thing lands flat-footed on the barroom floor with a big, raunchy guitar riff shaking itself clear and everybody falling in alongside it.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Waydown Wailers: brothers David and Christian Parker (David handles lead vocal chores along with guitar and mando; Christian is a killer picker who doles out everything from raucous crunchy stuff and funky fills to soaring B-bender Tele licks); Connor Pelkey on Trenchtown-meets-Muscle-Shoals bass; and rhythm monster Michael Scriminger working the kit. Professor Louie and Miss Marie of The Crowmatix (fellow members of the Woodstock Records family) are also on hand for the band’s new State Of The Union, adding tasty layers of keys and just-right background vocals.
And don’t be thinking those opening moments of the album described above define the band’s sound, as the Waydown Wailers morph and shapeshift effortlessly through State Of The Union’s eight cuts in the finest of ways. For example, the final minute of the aforementioned “Mercy Mercy” is all descending chord grandeur, lugged on the back of Pelkey’s bristled-up bass and finished off with Scriminger’s military funkdrums – the outro is as powerful as the intro.
Listen to the title track carefully as Scriminger changes the scenery on the fly from amped-up Spaghetti Western strut (only thing it lacks is an occasional bull whip crack) to ska-flavored stomp. David Parker’s powerful little mandolin is the key to “The Man”, swinging from flurries of Celtic-flavored riffs to chugging chords that provide a springboard for some fierce picking by brother Christian. (Listen for the Professor’s accordion on the outro!)
“One By One” shifts from chikka-chikka-chikka rhythm guitar and galooooping disco bass (woven together with slinky/tasty B-bender licks) to a second-set-at-Antone’s bluesy romp to take things home. “Woman Tonight” is classic Ventura Highway buckskin-shirted electric cowboy ballad until about the two-minute mark where things take a rocking turn (and eventually jam into a spiraling working that has its share of Allmanesque moments).
“Money Grabbers” is big ol’ powerful churn; “My Girl” is an impossible-to-ignore invitation to shake your hips; and “Online Love” is a cool hybrid blend of funky stuffs punctuated by flurries of massive surf drums.
David Parker sings with passion (and a cool growl), whether he’s doling out social commentary or wringing out his heart. The best thing is, the Waydown Wailers never feel like a singer and the band: this is a powerhouse quartet who know how to put together tunes that keep you leaning towards the speakers once the hook is set in your ear.
They play together on this album; they play off each other. In the meantime, Professor Louie also handled production chores on State Of The Union and he knew not to trim the meat too close to the bone. There are enough grunts, squeals, and gristly bits to provide flavor and an in-the-moment vibe.
The only ring-tailed pisser about the whole thing is, this is the Waydown Wailers’ debut. You’re going to have to wait for seconds, folks.
2014 Woodstock Records