Van Wilks- 21st century Blues

By Lady K
April 2016

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21st Century Blues

Texas 51 Records, 2015

Van Wilks is out of Texas (Austin, I believe). Now don’t let the title of the album scare you away; some of it is ‘new’ blues, but it’s the blues – great for listening, singing along, and dancing to. Wilks’ very romantic guitar is played to ‘speak’ lovingly when he’s not singing.

The players include: Van Wilks (guitars, vocals, songwriter); Christopher Cross (guitars, vocals, songwriter); Tommy Taylor, Charlie Fountain, Nico Leophonte, Scott Laningham (drums); Reggie Witty, Dave Ray, Mark Epstein, Chris Maresh, Andy Salmon (bass); Billy Mason, Stefano Intelisano (keyboards); Tommy Taylor, Lisa Tingle, Malford Milligan, Reggie Witty, Maria Estela Raffone (vocals).

Van Wilks wrote all of the tracks on this album (with help from some friends in a few cases.)

“Drive By Lover” was a joint venture between Billy Gibbons and Wilks, and it’s one of Lady K’s favorite tracks. An up-tempo tune, loaded with slide guitar, about him liking the scenery as he’s driving through the ‘hood: “She got the kinda look that’d make a grown man cry / Believe I’ll turn around and drive back by / She’s my drive-by lover.”

Cross (guitars and vocals) wrote the up-tempo “She Makes Me Crazy,” and Malford Milligan vocalizes with Wilks on this track. It expresses serious attraction to yet another woman walking down the street! Van Wilks’ Texas roots were evident during the introduction to “There’s a Sin in There Somewhere,” with Wilks sharing writing credit with Lisa North and Dana Farmer. Lady K is ‘allergic’ to anything too country-sounding, so she was very relieved that the tune turned into a rockin’ blues song (good thing because she loves the title) and the lyrics ‘There’s a sin in there somewhere / We’re all gonna sin sometime’.

“Just Walk Away” is his slow and sexy way of telling her he can help her change her life for the better – ‘Just walk away from the life you’ve been livin’ / Close the door and don’t look back / Taxi to the station / I’ll be waitin’.’ And it stays slow and sexy through a short, but intense, instrumental middle.

Another Lady K favorite is the mid-tempo title track; loaded with lots of slide guitar and lots of instrumental breaks. It’s about all the ‘stuff’ out there that’s wrong with the world these days (although the tune was probably written before Trump announced his candidacy): ‘It’s more than a man can stand / These 21st century blues’. There’s a bunch more rockin’ guitar in “Can’t Stop Thinkin’”: ‘Can’t stop thinkin’ about you / Face-to-face and eye-to-eye / You didn’t even say goodbye / I took the fall’. If you like slow love songs, “If I Were A Rich Man” is for you. He promises her what he’s got: ‘I’ll never be a rich man / But you’ll always be my queen / We’ll rule the world in our dreams’. The last track on “21st Century Blues” isn’t really blues, but it’ll capture your attention. Seems like it’s gonna be a slow instrumental tune, because it’s got a very (very) long introduction, and then just a few words at the end of the track – sung in Spanish; it’s more a prayer with background music; but other-worldly and different.

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