Chuck E. Weiss has been around the music scene since the late 1960's. After a recording hiatus of 18 years, Weiss came back in style with the highly acclaimed "Extremely Cool" in 1999, produced by long time friend Tom Waits. With the release of "Old Souls & Wolf Tickets," Weiss has now taken things on to an even higher level.
Weiss sets out his stall on the opening "Congo Square at Midnight" which is
a New Orleans gumbo containing elements of swamp, funk and jazz. This is
the sort of thing that would result if Dr. John got together with the Neville Brothers. It is the first of thirteen originals, and is a very good introduction to Weiss and the band.
The influence of Tom Waits unsurprisingly permeates several of the more jazzy tracks. It is most notably evident on the laid back "It Don't Happen Overnight" (where bits of Mose Allison also surface), "Sweetie-O," "Anthem For Old Souls" and "Blood Alley."
The only cover on the album is a version of "Down The Road Apiece" that was
recorded in 1970 with Willie Dixon and the Chicago All Stars. The latter included Sunnyland Slim (piano), Carey Bell (harp), Buster Benton (guitar) and Clifford James (drums). Despite its age, the tune actually fits in well here, and does show off the more bluesy side of Weiss' work.
The strangest track here is "Piggly Wiggly" which for the most part has Weiss singing in a falsetto good ole boy style, before it segues into the excellent "Two Tone Car (An Auto Body Experience)." This is one of several tracks that features some terrific tenor sax from the late Spyder Mittelman. It ranks as one of the best tracks along with "No Hep Cats" which opens with an acapella introduction before the band come crashing in on a tune that sounds like it came straight out of the Professor Longhair book.
The album ends with "Dixieland Funeral" which is pretty much what you would
expect from a song with such a title. So it starts off slowly and plods at a funereal pace before the horns start to swing and turn it into a celebration of life, rather than regrets about death. And then it is time to hit the replay button.
"Old Souls & Wolf Tickets" is an excellent album by any standards. Whilst not strictly blues, it does have a lot of blues related, and blues inspired musical styles running through it. Chuck E. Weiss is currently mining a rich vein of form at the moment, and when supported by a top notch bands the results are almost uniformly excellent. No home should be without "Old Souls & Wolf Tickets": it really is *that* good.
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