Living Blues Review
Victor Wainwright and the WildRoots - Lit Up ! 2011
Victor Wainwright's second release on the WildRoots label is a riotous, intoxicating run through all kinds of exciting blues territory. The gifted Memphis-based boogie-woogie piano player is backed by the expert WildRoots Band-ablaze with jumping beats, lively saxophones, and some spine-tingling guitar work. Every track is brilliant. Producer Stephen Dees gets it right, delivering a refined sound. Dees also plays bass and acoustic guitar on the album and had a hand in most of the songwriting. Guest musicians add to the endeavor, from a soulful Hammond organ to an evocative saxcello. There's something for every kind of blues fan to get excited about.
Lit Up! kicks off with Big Dog's Runnin' This Town, a jump blues number that is pure, irresistible boogie music. He ends the track with a bark and howl, seeming to call the wild crowd that couldn't help getting on its feet to follow him through the rest of this lively affair. Indeed, for the rest of the album, Wainwright serves as an electrifying guide to a good time-spinning tales, telling his listeners how to beat the blues, and meticulously conjuring raw soul and energy out of his acoustic piano. Wainwright is skilled at handling jump blues. The scene in Little Ole' Shack sounds as fun as a Louis Jordan fish fry.
The temperature goes way up on the album's rocking title track and Ting Tang Bang, both featuring Mark "Muddyharp" Hodgson on the harmonica. Wainwright gets in plenty of New Orleans-style blues too. Subliminal Criminal is a standout in that style, and along with Coin Operated Woman and Honky Tonk Heaven, Wainwright displays a sharp sense of humor and a knack for storytelling.
Weeds is the most interesting offering. Wainwright sounds like Satchmo at times, and the song shuffles along with a mysterious gypsy jazz feel. He evocatively offers up, "Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds." Wainwright certainly isn't mistaken. With Lit Up! he has cultivated a sophisticated album where songwriting, performance, production, and pure talent come together just right. It's a raucous foray into infectious boogie and blues. Don't miss it!
Katie Lambert - Living Blues
* * * * *
Victor Wainwright and the WildRoots - Lit Up!
The follow-up to Wainwright's critical success "Beale Street to The Bayou" builds on all the good juju from that release and actually manages to improve on every level. From any aspect you care to view this disc - songwriting, recording quality, and of course performance - this disc is an absolute winner. For starters, there's no chance a blues fan can get bored with this disc. Stylistically, Lit Up exhibits an understanding of a wide range of blues, from the flat out boogie of the album-opening "Big Dog's Runnin' This Town," straight through the heart of New Orleans with "Subliminal Criminal;" from a fine and comfortable Delta country feel with "Dixie Highway," through a superbly aching slow blues with "Our Last Goodbye;" for all of it, Wainwright and Company (Stephen Dees, Greg Gumpel, Patricia Ann Dees, Billy Dean and Ray Guiser) show themselves as consummate wizened pros. Folks... this is seriously good blues!
Oh, and don't be shy about adding "stellar production values" to the list of this album's merits. Producer/Arranger Stephen Dees exhibits superb judgment and taste with every flourish on the disc. Horns are added where they sound fantastic - never for mere effect, and as with all other aspects of the album, never gratuitously. Solos are appropriate, tasteful and skillful, adding to the solidarity of the feel throughout this album of a very, very good band playing together, never against one another. Adding a final perfect touch to the disc, Wainwright plays a proper acoustic piano on the album's entirety; he makes his love for and extreme skill on the instrument exceedingly obvious from start to finish.
Picking a favorite track on this release might be akin to choosing your favorite gem from a perfect necklace... but if my feet were held to the fire, I might go with "Walk Away My Blues." A medium-to-slow aching blues, it gives Wainwright a chance to shine in his two most accomplished arenas; his vocals (which never get enough credit in my book) are pleading and aching, and his piano playing on this track is a microcosm of the entire album; brilliantly presented, never flash for the sake of flash but in possession of every necessary chop in the book... and then some. The horns on this track again add so much to the presentation, lending something between a big band feel and the ambiance of a smokey back-room strip joint. The whole track just blows me away.
In fact, and I'm sure it's obvious by now, the whole album blows me away. Perhaps the simplest and most effective way I can say it is this... I've been living in Memphis for over three years now. I love the city, love the music and the musicians here and I do what I can to bathe myself in as much of our city's music as I can. To these ears, Lit Up is by far the finest recording I've heard from Memphis in my entire time here. Victor Wainwright and the WildRoots have done themselves, Memphis and all of the blues world very proud.
Silver Michaels - Blues Source
American Blues News
(Memphis, Tennessee) One of the most talented musicians to come onto the Blues scene in the past few years is Victor Wainwright. His Lit Up CD does not disappoint if you like Blues and boogie-woogie piano matched to a big voice and well executed instrumentation. There are 14 songs on this CD and there is not a bad song on the CD...period. With so much mediocre music being released every year, it is delightfully refreshing to be able to wholeheartedly endorse a new CD. this CD is just terrific... bluesy and cool, well-recorded performances by a host of excellent musicians and full of original songs.
This release is yet another collaboration with Victor's longtime partner Stephen Dees and it delivers a slew of well-written original songs full of interesting and entertaining lyrics along with some great performances from a bigger lineup of talented players. Stephen also plays bass, acoustic guitar and some percussion on this record. Victor has added some good horn arrangements this time around and the effect is legit, foot-stomping Blues music. This is Victor Wainwright's 4th release and the Wildroots second official release.
Victor Wainwright and the Wild Roots come out of the chute with a rollicking jump Blues, "Big Dog's Running this Town." The CD never gets repetitive as Victor and the boys tour the listener through a vast array of Blues styles, from world class boogie woogie, to a Django-esque minor chord based "Weeds" replete with Victor's vocal which occasionally smacks of Louis Armstrong, then departing to "Little Ole Shack which hearkens back to Louis Jordan with it's group vocals and cool horn section. The title track, "Lit Up" adds some harmonica to the mix, Mark "Muddyharp" Hodgson providing the tracks. This CD indeed expands the usual palette of musical flavors and it is a welcome addition to see Victor and company spread their wings. Also welcome is the addition of the author's "musical grandson", Chris Stephenson, on Hammond B-3 on Stephen Dees' Blues ballad "Our Last Goodbye." This song also features some ripping electric guitar which sounds like the work of the most accomplished Greg Gumpel who also contributes some tasty resonator guitar to the CD on the tunes "Dixie Highway" and the all acoustic "Pile of Blues." Greg is Victor's best friend and has traveled many miles of road with the singing piano-playing bluesman.
The use of a great sounding Samick acoustic piano throughout the recording adds to the legitimacy of this recording's old school sound. The recording is well organized and sophisticated and maintains good sonic values from beginning to end without ever coming off as too slick...this is straight-up Blues of the first order. The record would be worth buying for just the jump Blues and boogie woogie alone, but it delivers the goods again and again with superb tips of the porkpie to many Blues styles. This is an entertaining listen from top to bottom and rates 5 stars. If you like the Blues, you should check out this musical offering and hear the future of the Blues for yourself. Victor and the Wildroots have captured the best of the old and infuse it with the energy of youth without sacrificing anything along the trip.
Not only is Victor an accomplished musician and one of the hardest working players that I have countenanced, but he is also a beautiful, kind, human being, sensitive and generous to a fault. This comes out in his music as you can almost see Victor smiling while delivering lyrics and shouting in his trademarked style. Touring constantly and working in situations that require lots of hard travel has not diluted the impact of this man and his band. Along his long road he has played with some of the finest players in the music business and even played loads of shows with the talented and extremely humorous Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, who contributed to the writing of "Honky Tonk Heaven." Victor has a great career ahead of him. He naturally possesses a unique delivery and does not have to imitate or copy anyone else. Moreover, he is always entertaining and madly talented. You will never see Victor play a room and not go over with the crowd in a big way.
Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of this CD here:
Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms, 2011
Rootstime - BELGIUM
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.
"...if you really consider yourself a fan of the
blues then it needs to be on your shelf too. A remarkable variety of
styles considering that all of the songs are so 'true blues'."
"...wherever you put down the needle, it's just
pure, dead, brilliant."
"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."
"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
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.
the past few years Victor and his band have developed their
distinctive and original style of music, that makes it so special.
The content of this album will win you over on first listen and
"Victor Wainwright and the Wildroots will make you smile, make you
dance, and make you a convert to good, ole-fashioned piano-fied
blues, and will get you "Lit Up!" in the process!!!"
"Straight outta the box - Victor Wainwright can play some piano.
From honky-tonk sexy vamped up strolls to Louisiana hot sauce
syncopated second line joyfulness, Mr. Wainwright seems much at home
with any form of American Roots Music. The band is a great fit to
his sound and style, and the horns really fill out the sound-scape
and make 'Lit Up!' sure to be one of the top releases for 2011."
songs are all well written and executed. The whole CD is varied and
goes from rock 'n roll and boogie to New Orleans and the Mississippi
Delta and back to the boogie. With so much mediocre music on the
market, this CD is a relief, obviously with great pleasure and
certainly with great craftsmanship."
exceptionally gifted musicians, concentrating on a more demanding
style of songwriting and craft, which results in a blues
BW - Jazz and
Robert Sacre' - ABS Magazine - FRANCE
"We headed up I-5 on the way to a
four-day three-night fishing/camping trip at McArthur-Burney
Memorial State Park. It is a four and one-half hour zombie drive at
70 to 80 mph through commercial crop fields and speed traps on a two
lane strip of tarmac festooned with construction, slow moving
18-wheelers and overweight RV’s. Our little Subaru was stuffed to
the roof with gear. We were left with just two seats. There was no
rear view through the rearview mirror. I deemed it a perfect
opportunity to listen to the dozen or two new releases that had been
sent to me in the hopes of a review.
The Ripple Effect - Old School http://ripplemusic.blogspot.com/
"Pianist and singer Victor Wainright hails from Memphis and made quite a splash with his first CD “Beale Street To The Bayou” a couple of years back since when he has been touring constantly. “Lit Up!” was recorded in Edgewater, Florida, reunites most of the team that made the first CD and consists of entirely original material. Victor plays piano, sings all lead vocals and wrote half the material; Stephen Dees plays bass, produced the CD and wrote the other half of the material; Greg Gumpel plays guitar, Patricia Ann Dees tenor sax and backing vocals, Ray Guiser tenor sax and clarinet, Billy Dean drums. The horns are supplemented by Charlie DeChant on tenor, baritone and saxcello, Bob Dionne on trombone and Ken Titmus on trumpet, harmonica is added by Mark “Muddyharp” Hodgson and Hammond by Chris Stephenson.
Victor has a strong voice, with just the right amount of gruffness to convince on songs like the opener “Big Dog’s Runnin’ This Town”, a fast paced shuffle which rocks along with the horns pushing hard and the piano pounding. “Busted flat in New York, down on your luck, now ain’t it a pity. Got a one way ticket on a ship of fools. Look out little dog, it’s time you learned the rules” is an extract from the lyrics from this great opener to the CD. “Ting Bang Bong” features harp on a pounding blues which conjures up the ghost of Howling Wolf. I particularly liked “Subliminal Criminal”, a slice of New Orleans with great piano and a strong chorus line: “Subliminal criminal don’t give a damn, got the whole world in the palm of his hands”.
“Walk Away My Blues” is a mid-paced blues and the longest cut on the disc. The horns support the rhythm and the piano takes the main solo. A real change of pace occurs with “Dixie Highway” which features acoustic guitar, bass and growling harp, a song that reminisces about the South, and “Weeds”, another acoustic tune with clarinet to the fore. Here the song talks of the hard work involved in working the land: “Dig down deep, plant them seeds, without hard work nothing grows but weeds.”
“Little Ole’ Shack” is a song about a remote juke joint which sounds like a great place to spend an evening: “A little ‘ole shack up on the hill about a half a mile from the whiskey still. The preacher won’t like it, but your daddy sure will” is an example of the lyrics on this nicely rocking piece. Title track “Lit Up!” is a song about being not just in love but aflame with desire. The harp features as a support to the vocal and the piano takes the main solo with the horns in close support. “Our Last Goodbye” is a far more somber piece, the Hammond providing gentle support and Victor’s vocal really expressing the pain of the ruptured relationship: “I believe it’s a sin, you know it’s a crime to waste each other’s life living a lie. Living in denial is no way to live, just lay it on the line now, something’s got to give. Look me in the eye, it’s time for our last goodbye.” “Don’t Doubt It ‘ce est bon’” makes a good contrast in tone with its positive chorus about enjoying what you have. “Coin Operated Woman” is an amusing song, a cautionary tale of the lady friend who is costing Victor all his money. A frantic pace on the piano sets the tone and the horns bounce off the riff of this fun piece. “Pile Of Blues” is another acoustic piece with harp, brushes on the drums and acoustic bass. “I can’t begin to tell you about the state I’m in. I had way too much to drink last night; can’t quite remember what I did but I’m sure it wasn’t right” sets the tone for Victor who has “stepped in a big pile of blues”!
“Honky Tonk Heaven” is a terrific foot stomper, a real boogie woogie workout on the piano for Victor, the horns baying along, a song about another of those legendary clubs: “Tell Saint Peter it’s all right, the pearly gates are coming down tonight; we’re going to raise a little hell in Honky Tonk Heaven tonight.” A superb tenor sax solo precedes more rocking boogie piano on what is probably the standout track on the CD for me.
I liked the variety of this
well recorded CD which is full of excellent songs and performances.
Victor has a big personality on stage that comes across on this
record. I would expect this CD to further cement his reputation as
one of the rising stars of the blues world."
"Lit Up!" consists of 14 solid Tracks with Victor Wainwright and fellow Producer/Bassist Stephen Dees, writing or co-writing all of the songs. In addition to Victor Wainwright tickling the ivories on "Lit Up!", he also does the Lead Vocals, and he does them about as masterfully as any singer out there today, reminding me a lot of the vocal style of Dr. John. The backing band for this album, is as their Debut release "Beale Street to the Bayou", the Wildroots and consists of Stephen Dees (Bass/Acoustic Guitar/Percussion), Greg Gumpel (Resonator/Electric Guitar), Patricia Ann Dees (Tenor sax/Backing Vocals), Billy Dean (Drums), and Ray Guiser (Tenor sax/Clarinet). It does not take that long of a listen, into this album, to see why The Wildroots are considered "one of the tightest smokin’ bands on the scene".
The main man on "Lit Up!" is of course Victor Wainwright and his climb to the top of the heap of great Boogie Style Piano players and performers is pretty well complete, as a few recent quotes surely prove. “Victor Wainwright, wields a mighty left hand and a robust vocal delivery that brims with the very spirit of the blues. (Sheryl & Don Crow - Nashville Blues Society), “Extremely diverse with great songwriting, exceptional arrangements, flawless playing and vocals soulful enough to make Otis Redding sit up and take notice” (Bill Wilson - Billtown Blue Notes), “Victors’ piano playing is exciting and soulful, along with his strong vocals. Victor is a blues star on the rise. ” (Honey Piazza, Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers).
From Top to Bottom, Side to Side, and Front To Back, "Lit Up!" is just simply put, One Great Album, and in more ways than one, it will remind you of a least one of the greats, that being Dr. John. Victor Wainwright and his amazing backing band The Wildroots, have with "Lit Up!", firmly entrenched themselves as a Blues Force to be reckoned with. From the Piano pounding opening Track "Big Dog's Runnin' This Town", to the Soulful Backyard Bluesy singing on "Pile of Blues", "Lit Up!" is one great ride.
For those of you whom like
the Piano style delivery of the Blues, "Lit Up!" is a must have
album to your collection."
Wasting no time at all, the band jumps into full swing on the opening notes of the opening track and after that there's no looking back. Sounding like an out of control locomotive, Charlie's got that big baritone leading the rhythm section at full throttle. Without it slowing down to pick them up, Victor and Greg just jump right on and before you know it the piano and guitar are up to speed and all hell's breaking out. This is the kind of stuff that could turn a first time listener into a full time fan. Oh yeah, the song is titled "Big Dog's Runnin' This Town" and it features the Little Pups backing up the big guy on vocals.
On "Subliminal Criminal" you'll think Victor and his Krewe are performing on a passing by Mardi Gras float. This is real good ol' N'awlins honky tonkin' at it's finest. It features Bourbon Street type barrelhouse piano playing, Dixieland style horns and lots of howlin' and growlin' vocals. Throw me some beads, please!
From the sounds of this swingin' shuffle, I'm sure there's a lot of dancing going on at the "Little Ole Shack" up on the hill. Why there's even some going on right now at the House of Blewzz. This is the kind of song I rate by it's number of replays and trust me, there are going to be many. Victor's at his best on vocals, and the harmonizing between him and Patricia on the chorus lines is perfect. Just lock us in the little ole shack and throw the key away.
Quick! Get Victor some change. His "Coin Operated Woman" has taken everything he's got. Too bad he can't switch her over to run on rhythm, 'cause there's enough of it goin' on here to keep her running for a real long time. Stephen and Billy are on fire here and with Ray pushing them along on the tenor, this one totally rips.
I can think of worse things to step in, but Victor sounds quite down and out over stepping into a "Pile Of Blues". On this track the band goes from one extreme to another while sacrificing absolutely nothing along the way. Stephen and Greg on the acoustic and Resonator guitars compliment each other perfectly, Billy and Mark on the drums and harmonica are providing a precision soft rhythm, and Victor - borrowing some soul from the Doctor and a bit of growl from Satchmo, are amazing together on this perfectly done acoustic track. This is song of the year material if I've ever heard it.
Imagine the conversation in the huddle of a football game where the team with the ball has 3 seconds left, they're 80 yards from the goal line and they need a touchdown to win. The quarterback would obviously tell his best players to run as far and as fast as they can, right? "Honky Tonk Heaven" is that game, Victor is that quarterback and his players are all going all out. This one seriously rocks.
Other tracks that will light you up on "Lit Up" include: "Ting Tang Bang", "Walk Away My Blues", "Our Last Goodbye", "Dixie Highway", "Weeds", "Lit Up", "Don't Doubt It 'ce est bon", and "Let It Be The Same".
To learn more about Victor and the band and to sample & buy some of their music, stop by www.wildrootsrecords.com. Please make sure you tell him his buddy the Blewzzman sent ya."Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
Music on the Couch - Vinny "Bond" Marini
"On "Lit Up", Victor Wainwright and his band come out of the gate firing on all cylinders with the horn driven swing of "Big Dog's Runnin This Town" and don't let up off the emotional gas throughout the entire CD! Touching on all the various styles within piano based blues, Victor and Co. turn in solid, impressive performances on lament "Our Last Goodbye", the N'Awlins second line stomp of "Subliminal Criminal" the heavy riffing of "Ting Tang Bang" and the title track, amongst many others!
Victor's voice sounds at times like a cross between Dr. John and Rick Estrin, keeping the best qualities of both-if a tenor sax could sing words, it would sound like Victor! The musicianship is stellar, but not blindingly virtuosoistic-every note perfectly placed, with nothing wasted. Ditto with the recording, it's clean and full, very well balanced and mixed.
Frankly, there isn't a bad
tune on this disk, which is a rare thing nowadays-it's the kind of
CD that can play all day and you wouldn't mind a bit. Lit Up comes