Bobby ‘Blackhat’ Walters
Put Your Red Shoes On
Sophisticated and Sizzling Blues and Soul Hybrid.
Bobby ‘Blackhat’ Walters is a brand new name to me, even though he’s been making music for over 40 years and this appears to be his fifth album in that time. But; and this is a mighty big surprise; for 27 of those years he was in the American Coast Guard rising to the lofty position of US Coast Guard Commander and served as a Military Aide to the President (it’s not clear which one!); and still found time to make glorious music in his spare time.
I may have to come back to the stunning opening track I Smell Another Man On You; as this downright sleazy tale of his cheating woman is as good as I’ve heard of its type; which is mostly based around bands and singers on the now defunct Ecko Records label. Man, oh Man can Walters not only ‘tell a tale’ but he blows a mean ole harmonica too; and there’s a lot more of both as this record proceeds.
That was a great start, but don’t think this is all “woe is me”… Hell No! There’s not just a twinkle in his eye on the cool acoustic Country Blues of This Grey Beard and the funky title track Put On Your Red Shoes, which absolutely sizzles in every single groove.
Sometimes it’s difficult for a songwriter to shine with this type of Soul/Blues hybrid, but Bobby manages to combine some sweet danceable rhythms with his cool and clever story telling on Jimmy Reed’s You Got Me Runnin’ and his very own the so very politically incorrect Baby Mama Drama Blues!
‘Clever’ keeps coming into my head on this album; as Bobby ‘Blackhat’ seamlessly takes us on a roller-coaster ride of emotions; starting with those tunes I’ve just mentioned and grabbing and squeezing your heartstrings with the epic Grim Reaper which comes in at over 9 minutes long and his Award Winning I Hear Mama’s Voice at way over the 10 minute marker……… but neither loses your attention for a nano-second.
The first time I played this album I was nearly three minutes into the haunting instrumental rendition of St. Leonard’s Hallelujah before I even recognised it. Played predominantly by Walters on the harmonica, with a gentle backing from his bandmates it is about to be written into my will as a tune I’d like played at my funeral!
Which now brings us to the two songs that I will have to flip a coin to choose which is actually the RMHQ Favourite; the intricately beautiful When I Cry, It’s Ugly and the Chicago stomper Overdose of the Blues; which may not be ‘anything new’ but it’s a crackling 4 minutes of music well worthy of John Lee, Muddy or Little Walter at their finest.
Oh dear….. my penny came down on its edge; so it’s a tie.
There’s only one fault in this whole package; and it’s a mighty big one; as it’s the artwork on the cover! Deary me……who on earth thought that was eye-catching? It looks like something that would have adorned a 99p LP of Soul cover versions in Woolworth’s circa 1973; but when you flip it over there’s a great photo of Bobby Blackhat blowing into his harmonica…… and that image alone would make me want to buy this in a record store.
Released November 15th 2018