Monday, August 8, 2011

RootsTime Reviews "Lit Up!"

In their new album, Victor Wainwright and the WildRoots mix an almost perfect amount of latent humor, vitality, untamed fun with some hints of sadness in between with songs like the sublime 'Our Last-Goodbye'. After their acclaimed debut, "Beale Street To The Bayou", you could already predict that we wouldn't have to wait too long for more because, music is obviously in their blood.

They've added a new drummer, Billy Dean, but the rest of the band remain an unchanged enthusiastic bunch with Greg Gumpel on resonator and electric guitar, and bassist/acoustic guitarist/percussionist Stephen Dees in the starring role of co-writer and producer. Patricia Ann Dees and Ray Guiser on tenor saxophones, were also incorporated into the WildRoots. Additional guest musicians add to their engaging "power-house Blues sound.

Victor's piano is the key, to what makes 'Lit Up' so special. Underneath those rolling piano keys we also hear a generous portion of New Orleans in the mix with the Blues and Memphis soul. The lyrics encompass breakup, agricultural, urban and philosophical themes. Cheerfulness is mixed with melancholy. From the swinging 'Little Ole' Shack's sinful pleasure, to the delightful and enchanting, "Weeds," with Ray Guiser's and Charlie DeChant's clarinet and saxcello, you think of depicting a harvest scene from Jean-Francois Millet.

You can hear influences of Hound Dog Taylor, Professor Longhair, Albert Ammons, Pinetop Perkins and - why not - Leon Redbone, and Randy Newman, in the last track the intimate "Let It Be The Same". In terms of a favorite, it is difficult to choose between 'Subliminal Criminal' and the irresistible 'Lit Up'. Or even the repentant "Pile Of Blues". In "Our Last Goodbye," he sings in a yearning aching voice in which the pain is still glowing with the guitar and seems to cry. Yet the pride of top place goes to "Dixie Highway" and not just because of the Resonator Guitar. It's like Wainwright's, soulful and authentic singing voice, just lingers in that kind of retro Delta/Mississippi blues history.

Boogie-woogie and soul alternate with each other and the dynamics are equal to anything recorded at Sun Records [Memphis], or St Cosimo Recording Studios [New Orleans]. This "Lit Up!" Album at the same time gives back atmosphere typical of the better barrelhouse establishments, where Big Mamacita's running the business, and the music guides are marked with four stars.



"Lit Up!" Reviewed by the ToledoBlade

LIT UP Victor Wainwright & The WildRoots (WildRoots Records)
"Lit Up" will light up your senses with 14 original numbers and more than 53 minutes of powerful Memphis blues, heavy on the rock and soul. The sound and approach are both fresh throughout, featuring Wainwright playing some hot piano alongside an earnest, slightly gruff voice born to sing the blues.

The five core members of the band are tight, whether doing backup vocals or stretching their talents on bass, guitar, saxophones, and percussion. They get a boost on some tracks by guest musicians on sax, harmonica, organ, clarinet, trombone, and trumpet.

From the jump blues strains of the opening "Big Dog's Runnin' This Town" to the loping, soulful, clarinet-backed "Dixie Highway," the rocking beat of "Little Ole Shack," the mournful Delta strains of "Pile of Blues," among others, Wainwright and the crew offer something new and exciting in every number.
Wainwright wrote or co-wrote nine of these gems; producer/writer Stephen Dees gets creative credit on 12. These fellows make a great team when it comes to being innovative in a genre that too often sounds repetitive. "Lit Up" is a knockout album that runs the gamut of blues styles with no weaknesses.

Cascade Blues Association Reviews "Lit Up!"

Do you love blues and you want a CD that is going to satisfy your tastes in a variety of styles? Well let’s just say that your expectations will probably be met with this new recording from Victor Wainwright & The Wildroots. For Victor’s fourth release, he has explored several options and approaches; and they all work very nicely here, giving good reason to verify the thoughts of many who consider Wainwright to be one of the most promising young performers out there today.

A former Floridian now calling Memphis his home, Wainwright is a ferocious pianist with a voice that easily rises above a full band. He can boogie the house down or lead the pack in a Louis Jordan-inspired number with horns, or raise the hairs on your neck with a low-down blues. His versatility cannot be overlooked.

Fourteen tracks, all of them originals, most written by Wainwright, his bass player Stephen Dees, or a combination of the two. The song “Coin Operated Woman” was co-written with Wainwright’s longtime guitarist Greg Gumpel, and even old friend Billy C. Wirtz adds a hand in the writing of the song “Honky Tonk Heaven.” And I have to add that not a number on this disc lets down the musical quality and flow at any time; they’re all really terrific and performed by The Wildroots with outright perfection.

There is a lot to really like here. The song “Weeds” comes across as a Tom Waits number; “Little Ole’ Shack” has a Louis Jordan feel; “Big Dog’s Runnin’ This Town” is pure and simply a boogie piece that kicks a lot of fun and will have toes tappin’ in no time. “Dixie Highway” is an acoustic song that finds Gumpel on a resonator guitar and droning harmonica from guest Mark “Muddyharp” Hodgson; and it contains a gentle Delta flavored pace. The piano and horn interplay on “Subliminal Criminal” may sound a lot like something you’d hear from Dr. John, then act like a big band in the slow-churning “Walk Away My Blues” while Wainwright tickles the keys. But as much as they may remind you of others, this is all Victor Wainwright and his presence will hook you as well. Just give it a listen and pretty soon you’ll discover that you’ve stepped into a big pile of blues. You will be pleasantly thrilled with this one.

Total Time: 53:18

Big Dog’s Runnin’ This Town / Ting Tang Bang / Subliminal Criminal / Walk Away My Blues / Dixie Highway / Weeds / Little Ole’ Shack / Lit Up! / Our Last Goodbye / Don’t Doubt It ‘ce est bon’ / Coin Operated Woman / Pile Of Blues / Honky Tonk Heaven / Let It Be The Same

Reviewed by Greg Johnson

FolkWorld Review of "Lit Up!"

The fourth and last album comes from singer and pianist Victor Wainwright and the Wild Roots. I liked his former album a lot,[41] and it’s like this amazing musician continues where the debut album ended. Wainwright amazes me again with an energetic mix of blues, rock, folk, jazz and so many other styles. Where the other two artists I wrote about in this review stay closer to the better known traditional ways of playing, Wainwright gives it full speed and creates, together with his fine band, a full and rich sound that makes me want to move my body and enjoy it with my eyes closed at the same time. You got to love this!
© Eelco Schilder

FolkWorld #45 07/2011

Review of "Lit Up!" by

Look out blues fans! There's a new CD on the shelf of your local music store, and if you really consider yourself a fan of the blues then it needs to be on your shelf too. Lit Up! by Victor Wainwright and the WildRoots will light you up for sure. Each song is well written and executed, and reveals a remarkable variety of styles considering that all of the songs are so 'true blues'.

There is a little something special on nearly every track. The electric guitar on “Our Last Goodbye” screams out the blues as loud and clear as Wainwright's gritty vocals. It's as good a slow blues tune as you'll hear on a new recording this year, I'll wager. The piano work on the title track “Lit Up!” is a fantastic mix of boogie and blues, with lots of tasty licks. The dialogue between the guitar and harmonica on “Pile of Blues” comes across like the musical equivalent of two drinking buddies just laughing their backsides off while Wainwright sings out about his misfortune.

The blues have been around just as long as human misery. The themes are familiar to us all. That means it's hard to write and sing blues music that is fresh, while staying true to the roots of the tradition. Well, the WildRoots and Mr. Wainwright have the Memphis Blues sounding better that it has in a good little while, so don't miss out on it!
Key Tracks- Lit Up!, Our Last Goodbye, Pile Of Blues
Donny Harvey- Staff