Clearly a belter with big lungs, Michelle Willson has been kickin' up a storm for years now. This effort, Wake Up Call, is clearly a shot fired across the bow of anyone unfamiliar with the Evil Gal's sumptuous vocals and highly emotive responses to the material. This fourth biscuit for Bullseye attests to her appeal; throwing her brand of jazzed-up, funky yet accessible blues and R & B into your lap.
Willson's uncompromising approach is held aloft by Mike Mele on the guitar, Scott Shetler on the saxes, and Ken Clark on the Hammond B-3. The timing is orchestrated by drummer Zac Casher. The bassless rhythms are handled by Clark's organ with a stunning result. These slabs were produced by Scott Billington and as Michelle relates "I wanted Wake Up Call to be more like our live show ...". You'll find it certainly flows every bit like that and then some. The girl from Cambridge gives a wide berth to varied material and then executes with a broader aplomb.
Step out with a funky rhythm, heavy horn, and jazzed axe on the opening title cut. Willson's personal and believable delivery comes down sweet and low on it ("Wake Up Call"), then changes gear with the cocky "Barking Up The Wrong Tree". Get a jump flavor and 50s rock 'n' roll shake going on "They Don't Want Me To Rock"; some movin' gospel inflection on "Leap Of Faith"; and vocal/sax intercourse enlivened with a fluently filling organ on "Think About Me". The twelve tunes here are powerfully exciting with the mood captured, hijacked, and respelled for you by Willson. Jump to a twenties sound with "Water Water", excite your action with "Crazy Crazy", or tap your toe to the cabaret feel of "Mi My Moo" with the standout sax and jazzy keyboard.
Willson has moved into the big leagues batting with a force reserved for the best of the belters. Claiming a new relationship with her material and music; she continues to grow with a vocal character that has unlimited potential and realization that's found on this and her previous three outings. Having seen the live show, this platter comes as close as one could; complete with fat horns, greasy bottoms, and the Evil Gal in charge. There are equal parts of sass, sugar, and sweat rolled in here: Come and git it!
Bullseye Blues & Boogaloo; c/o Rounder Records Corp.; One Camp Street;
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140
This review is copyright © 2001 by Mark A. Cole, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.