Willie May's new CD, “Thirteen”, is a very intriguing recording. It is the 13th CD to be released by this very talented guitarist, singer, song writer and performer. Over the years he has played at many types of venues including bars, festivals, concert halls and even Attica prison. Willie's music can also be heard on blues radio stations in Europe, Australia, Argentina, South Africa and back to Buffalo N.Y. At this time “Thirteen” is on the NY Roots Music (blues) list at #10 and the Roots Music Report at # 34. Willie infuses roots, country and some reggae - Cajun in with his blues. Besides playing dobro and guitar on the recording we are also treated to the different sounds off a kalimba and acarina.
Performing along with May on “Thirteen” are Doug Yeomans on guitar, Evan Laedke with piano and organ, Jim Whitford playing upright bass and Josh Meyers and Randy Bolam sharing the drum tracks. The mix of sound on the CD is also enriched by the addition of Kevin Espinosa playing harmonica, Leeron Zydeco's accordion and several background singers. All of this group together make for a strong lineup on this CD. Yes, we have a lot to listen to and for with “Thirteen”.
The cover art work may just scare the heck out of you if you think about it. You can just take it for what it is or read what you feel like into it. With tunes such as “”Dealin' with the Devil”, “Devil's Daughter” and “I'm a Tragedy” the mind may wander freely on the subject. “Dealin' with the Devil” is a strong example of Willie's fine dobro playing ability. This track features some really powerful sounds from the instrument and is good to listen to. May's has a rough, unpolished, gritty nature in his vocals (not being derogatory here) that just enhances the quality of his blues. He does sing with much emotion and feelings for the lyrics that he has written. He tells us that “you can't outrun the devil” and telling the devil that you've got Heaven on your side. This tune is a story that we should listen to.
“Smile” takes us to a more upbeat place with a down south Cajun type tune. Infused into the lyrics we hear Willie playing electric guitar featuring a real strong solo. This is another solid track from “Thirteen”. “I'm a Tragedy” is a bluesy, rock almost Rollin' Stone type tune. “Take a look at me. I'm a tragedy”, Take a good look, I was once like you” tells us of the trials of life to look out for. Willie seems to have taken the time and effort to write lyrics with meaning and the strength to make us listen to them. Every track on this CD is different, easy to listen to and make one feel like you are on a musical adventure.
Willie May and his recording, “Thirteen”, are both unique and interesting. May's is a talented guitarist, writer and singer who has place his heart and feelings into his music. He seems to be willing to venture anywhere to tell his stories with his music. “Thirteen” may go in many directions as far as being an all out blues recording but it still remains as a fine example of good music to listen to.
Reviewed by Harmonica Joe