Blues from Hong Kong? "Out Of The Blue" is the fourth album from William Tang since 1996, and very good it is too. Born in the UK (Manchester) Tang has been in Hong Kong since 1989, when he originally stopped off on his way round the world. The trip was never completed, and Tang went on to build himself a reputation as Asia's finest harp player. On this evidence, it is easy to see why.
The album was recorded live in the studio, in just one day. This has not had any major adverse affect on the results, however, although one or two of the tracks could have used a little pruning. Of the nine tracks on offer, five are band originals. On balance, the new stuff just outweighs the covers, which include "Born in Chicago" from the repertoire of the Butterfield Blues Band.
The band's qualities are self-evident from the opener ("Walkin' Round"). Tang sets out his stall right from the opening bars, playing in a style that reflects a number of influences, including Sugar Blue. He also handles vocals, singing in a style that sounds a bit like a cross between George Thorogood and Jonny Lang, with the occasional hint of Bobby Bland thrown in. The ensuing "Mercy Blues" has a better balanced arrangement overall, and lets Patrick Murdoch show that he is an accomplished guitar player. Special mention too for the rhythm section of Mark Menezes (drums) and John French (bass) who provide a rock solid platform throughout for the two frontmen. "Mercy Blues" vies with "It's Alrite" and the closing "Go Foo Guy"--which ends rather abruptly--for best track on the album.
"Out Of The Blue" offers further evidence, if it were needed, of the universality of the language of the blues. The overall style is essentially harp dominated Chicago blues, although there is plenty of very fine guitar work too. The album offers an insight into what the band must sound like live. Given that Tang is based in Hong Kong, I suspect chances to see them live will be comparatively rare. In the meantime, "Out Of The Blue" gives you a chance to hear for yourself that William Tang can deliver the goods.
William Tang: www.williamtang.com
Blue Wail Records: www.bluewail.com
This review is copyright © 2000 by Gordon Baxter , and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.