Thursday, November 12, 2015

Versatile Whelan Releases The Story of Ike Dupree

There’s nothing like trouble to bring folks together. Of course some of those folks are trying to get a leg up over other folks, but let’s be honest, when it’s a natural or man-made disaster most people come together for the common good. I’ll never forget those people when the World Trade Towers came down, handing out water and food to exhausted relief workers.
Just ordinary people trying to help.
Or Katrina, when people in boats went looking for others that were trapped by the raging waters.
Again, just ordinary folks.
I’m not talking about the freaky kind of trouble where an outsider shows up with a harpoon to fight of evil like in one of Henry’s Favorite Movies™, Terror In A Texas Town. Nope, that’s just a little too out there. After all, how many people bring a harpoon to a gunfight?
I’m not even sure there’s a single harpoon in all of our little township. After all, you know what they say, “When you take away our harpoons, only criminals will have them.”
Around Jordan’s Branch, we’ve had some pretty serious high waters that rushed through tearing off a large chunk of the mountain. Nobody was really hurt, but we did have a few scary hours and there was some nasty damage inflicted on the sleepy little town. It’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of money to get everything ship shape again.
So to fix things up, we’re going to have a Brunswick Stew sale at the Juke Joint. I have my father’s old recipe, a giant cauldron, a couple of nearby teenagers for the paddling and stirring, a house band that returned to play all day long, and Henry walking around with a clipboard telling everybody what to do.
Just another day at work.
I was in charge of assembling the main ingredients in the kitchen; chicken, corn, stewed tomatoes, Vidalia onions, lima beans, and several “secret” ingredients. These would be ferried out at the right moments and added into the boiling mix while the easily distracted teenagers moved the paddle through the swirling and growing concoction.
While I was in the kitchen, I put on a new CD from Whelan that had caught my eye a few days ago. It was autographed. Can’t help it, ever since the Professor was a student teacher (and before) he’s been a sucker for autographs, especially on albums or CD covers. It doesn’t have to be profound, but a little personal note goes a long way with me.
So, I slide THE STORY OF IKE DUPREE into the CD player and start chopping food and almost instantly I am transported to a different place.
Whelan is Sid Whelan on guitars and vocals; Richard Huntley plays drums and clave; Mark Manczuck on various percussion, including congas, djembe, bongos, shaker, bell, and tambourine; Marco Panascia on bass; and Jerry Z on organ and piano. All of the 13 songs are written by Sid Whelan and I notice that there are a number of guest artists that play mostly brass and wind instruments.
I can’t wait.
Nothin’ But The Blues kicks it off with a strong guitar riff with some brass thrown in for emphasis. The lyrics are good and already I’m thinking what kind of show I can put this into. I’m liking it a whole lot already and wondering what else is Whelan going to unleash.
Next up is a slower more stripped down number with a shuffle beat, Every Time I See Her. It’s nice when a grown man admits to still being tongue-tied around a beautiful woman and even nicer when she lets us off the hook. This is a good gentle number and very sweet.
The horns really take over on the intro to Long Lonely Night, a slowed down ballad of loss and regret. It’s one of those that would have been right at home in a big band concert with singers in white tuxedos. Love this feel.
By now I am hooked, and while Whelan demonstrates their versatility, the feel for the material and their connection to it is striking. Sid Whelan’s guitars and his vocals evoke a different place and time. I’m looking through his bio to find out what else he’s recorded.
Next up is the title track, The Story Of Ike Dupree, and the Afro Cuban rhythms of Mark Manczuck and Richard Huntley take over and the horns are muted but punctuate nicely. The lyrics tell the story like some of the best Dylan – man, this is one assured songwriter and singer. Sid Whelan is the real deal and he has assembled an amazing band. I have to hit repeat on the player a few times to slide into this world deeper. The music blends so beautifully and the story is terrific.
Then the band slides into Ice Water with a funky back beat. Then the band ups the funk factor with One Way Street (Down The Line). In a way, Whelan reminds me a little of the Stax Sound with the use of the horns, but with his style of guitar and especially the lyrics, he’s crafted his own identity.
We are in more traditional territory with Down To The River. Jerry Z has his keys make a gospel sound and the backing vocals are nice and sharp and Sid Whelan really cranks us his guitar in a nice lead then brings in soft vocals. It makes them stand out that much more.
Randy Weinstein’s harp punctuates Too Cold Ohio Blues, a song with an old school feel. Love this stripped down almost primitive sound. Especially when he follows up with some more horns and a big band feel in the next song, The Rainmaker.
Following up these songs is the darkest number on the album, Blues Said: “Old Man…”. The light drums, trumpet, and plaintive lyrics paint a picture of loneliness and skid row like few have ever done. This is close to Tom Waits country and the effect is chilling.
He follows up with another story song, That Lil’ Fice and then a fun duet, Steak For Two. Versatile may not be a big enough word to describe Sid Whelan and Company. This is an album that should be in every music lover’s library because there is something for everyone.
The last song is Lighten Up, almost an adult lullaby that takes us into the darkness with a warm smile. Whelan has produced another winner and a tender ballad that goes down like a fine sipping whiskey.
What an album, their second. The first is called Flood Waters Rising, and the Professor is going out shopping a little later tonight to find it. I am very impressed by this CD and look forward to listening to Whelan for a long time.
If you’re interested, check them out at http://thesidwhelanband.com/. I hope they get some more pictures up there soon, because I need to “borrow” more for this blog. In the meantime, anybody ready for some stew?

Deep peace from The Professor in Jordan’s Branch.

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