Wily Bo Walker & ED Brayshaw
The Roads We Drive
Mescal Canyon Records
Salvador Seguí Square, 1 – 9
An Epic Blues Laden Southern Rocking Gothic Film Noir Soundtrack.
While he and I have been around for a 100 years or so; Wily Bo and my paths didn’t cross until he got in touch via a friends recommendation only a couple of years ago; but we’ve made up for lost time with the gruff voiced Scotsmans’ work ethic, which sometimes feels like he releases an album a month!
I am going to use a couple of descriptive terms that would normally send me running in the opposite direction of a record labelled ‘concept’ or ‘Rock Opera’; but Wily Bo and his pal ED Brayshaw manage to keep this collection of slightly disparate songs not just very accessible on every level, but on the right narrative road for the story they hope to tell; and the packaging is worth the entrance fee alone, too.
The absolutely blistering Storm Warning sets the exciting tone for the epic cinematic tale of ‘three people, two paths and one story’ that will follow; with Wily Bo’s voice possibly never sounding better or more expressive, and Brayshaw’s guitar playing sounds like sparks are flying off the strings!
The scene is then set for a collection of sweaty, claustrophobic and occasionally sexy songs based around Louise, Johnny and Harry as their lives criss-cross in a Thelma & Louise meets Bonnie and Clyde fashion, mostly in Dixie Alley; but with threads that spiral off and out of control.
I will forget the actual story for a minute or two; and concentrate on the songs; which individually are damn good from start to finish.
The obligatory Motel Blues is here and could easily have been the title track, as a lot of the stories start and finish here.
Johnny & Louise’s signature tune September Red follows soon after, being sensual, scary and sensitive in equal measures with a drum that sounds like a beating heart and a swirling Hammond organ, the boy telling his girl:
“Baby I am just a man
when I say I will die for you
I hope you will understand
Baby, I will be there for you.”
You know there isn’t going to be no happy ending.
The first Act closes with Killers on the Run; which sounds like Tom Waits fronting The Doors singing a Velvet Underground song in a Texas Bar; and the thread of fear, lust and menace comes through in every single note, especially the gut wrenching chorus.
“Out here we are Twisted
Out here we are alone
Out here we are…….. Beautiful!”
Oddly enough the Second Act starts with an acoustic guitar; but that soon dissolves into a dirty electric with rusty strings for Running Wild; which soon picks up pace like a stolen getaway car with only one station on the radio.
When you play this album (albeit 2 x CD’s or LP’s) from start to finish you will find yourself not just enjoying the songs themselves; but the clever way they lead from one to another keeping you engrossed in the thrills and spills of this absorbing Film Noir story line too, which comes to a conclusion with the powerful After The Storm which bleeds (quite literally) into the couple’s epitaph, Ballad of Johnny and Louise and closes with the haunting Country Blues of The Roads We Ride; which then reprises an instrumental Storm Warning; and then….. it’s all over.
It’s not fair to say I like the second album more than first; but there are two of Wily Bo Walker’s best ever songs here and both are crucial to the story; but stand up and out as great songs in their own rite!
To some degree Tennessee Blues is everything you would expect from a song of that title; but it also unravels and has twists and turns in every verse too.
Then, there is Night of The Hunter; and boy does it live up to it’s Classic title…..and more! Searing guitar from Brayshaw lifts it to giddy heights before Walker crawls across the killing floor to deliver the Bluesiest song he’s ever written or I’ve heard this century. Several other songs on the album threaten to be this good; but here the duo deliver a sensory overload that will make your pulse quicken and your chest tighten for a solid 6 minutes, without letting you off the hook for a single second. By the way; this is the RMHQ Favourite Song here, if I hadn’t made that clear.
As I said at the beginning, you can either listen to this as a collection of songs and thoroughly enjoy it in that manner; but you will be far get the best from this Album by following the narrative and investing in the well rounded, but ragged characters that inhabit this torrid tale.