I've been hearing great things about Wayne Buttery and The Groove Project for some time now, but haven't yet had the privilege of catching a live show; until I do I'm happy to settle for "Waiting," the band's debut.
With only three covers (two from Little Milton), Wayne and friends have made a strong statement, a collection not so much blues as "bluesy," with elements of soul, R&B, even a little pop to liven up the mix. The result is a breezy platter that ultimately comes across as light-hearted and good-natured.
Guitarist Wayne shares lead vocal duties with bassist Charlie Hinkel (who contributes roughly half the disc's originals) and drummer Dennis King; adding backup vocals is Bob Federer, whose work on both piano and organ is a highlight throughout. And like many projects assembled by seasoned pros, Wayne's made a party of it by inviting a number of friends along as guests, among them Ronnie Douglas (dobro, guitar), Simon Wallis (sax), Steve Thomas (harmonica), with Mike Roberts and Paul Robillard on guitar and trumpet respectively.
Milton's "Life Is Like That" leads off, setting the tone for what follows; wry acceptance of life's ups and downs, in this case built on a foundation of Allman-like slide and melodic harp. Next is Wayne's "I Said, She Said (Don't Go Out With Strangers)"; overtones of Santana here, with sinous lead and latin-tinged percussion underscored by Mr. Federer's organ.
"Skidileedabadoup," a bouncy shuffle, is a 'life on the road' tale, Mr. Hinkel taking the vocal and hoping to get home to his loved one so he - they - can . . . well, you can probably guess. The title track is a heartfelt ballad of heartbreak, stunningly effective in its straightforward simplicity. "Are You Doin' It Alone" comes in two parts, an acoustic intro featuring Mr. Douglas' dobro, and a hard-driving grinder, perhaps the deepest of the blues herein.
"It's Enough To Break Your Heart" returns to ballad territory, this one reminiscent of Percy Mayfield's "Someone to Love." "Good News" is pure pop, while "The Dangerous Kind" rides a twelve-bar groove but stays on the 'lite' side. "I'm Mad," short and sweet, is a stop-time shuffle powered by squalling harp and nasty slide. "My Tragedy" features more of Wayne's slinky slide work, contrasted by a chunky rhythm.
Lyrically, "I Got Nothin' Babe" (If I Don't Got You)" is pretty self-explanatory. Things come full circle with another Little Milton composition, this one a funky "That's What Love Will Make You Do," which proves a fitting conclusion to proceedings; again, not straight blues, not deep blues, but it has a great hook.
Scorecard on this one? Instrumental contributions uniformly top-notch (particularly Mr. Federer's keys, Dennis King's drumming - he's excellent throughout - and Steve Thomas' harp). Adequate vocals, nothing remarkable but no major missteps, either. The material, however catchy, seems somehow vague, as though Wayne can't quite decide whether he's pop or blues. Whether that's part of its charm or to its detriment depends on what you're looking for.
This review is copyright © 2001 by John Taylor, and Blues On Stage, 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.