Jim Weider is one of the best kept secrets in America. And that's a cryin' shame. He stands head and shoulders above the pack of usual suspects for his inventiveness, diversity, dexterity and technique. Talk about Talent Deserving Wider Recognition, Jim Weider is a genius deserving of just about any recognition. Since 1985, he's been lead guitarist with the Band. Given that the Band hasn't mattered for most of America since the 1970s, that's hardly a link to bigtime name recognition. Though he recorded with Champion Jack Dupree, he's certainly not strictly a bluesman, though he is, nonetheless, a remarkable player who works the blues liberally into his stylistic arsenal. He frequently evokes memories of Roy Buchanan, touches on Danny Gatton and is wholly capable of taking on Jimi Hendrix. His biggest claim to fame is a series of instructional videos, which have been a hit with guitarists, but slips by the rest of us. As if cognizant of this, he's assembled a collection of guitar tunes for this debut that don't just impress, but nearly overwhelm with their brilliance. It's almost as if he decided to record his greatest hits first.
The blast furnace opener, "Big Foot," pushes the volume and energy level to the max. Drummer Randy Ciarlante, bassist Rob Leon, organist Richard Bell (a veteran of the Full Tilt Boogie band) and harper Robbie Dupree run deep with the guitarist. The cover of Hendrix's "Little Miss Lover," with Lamont Depew on vocals that are eerily close to the original, is a sure enough bragging piece. Tony Levin sits in on bass. Weider shreds. "Deepest Cut," a deep blues dedicated to the guitarist's late mother, is the emotional centerpiece of the collection. It's also where his Buchanan influence shines brightest.
"New Orleans Boogie," with Harvey Brooks taking over the bass chair, lives up to its name with a second line shuffle and a riff that sounds like a sideways take on "Drivin' Wheel." As is the case front to back here, the guitar playing is sharp and distinct. Weider never slur his lines.
"Love's Like Rain," with Jonell Mosser on vocals, is a taste of the r&b side of Weider, with a nod to the Band. "Sliding Home" is a gorgeously melodic and bluesy instrumental, and his rendition of Chuck Berry's "Deep Feeling," which he has played as a show opener with the Band over the past few years, reminds me a whole bunch of Danny Gatton. His r&b roots are explored with back to back takes on King Floyd's "Groove Me" and a knockout version of Bobby Womack's "I'm In Love," with Ernie Cate offering the soulful vocals. "Texas Shuffle" tears it up, as you might expect with a name like that. The closer, Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers To Cross" is almost church-like in its stark beauty.
The last time I was introduced to someone this impressive was when I first heard Danny Gatton ten years ago. Players of this caliber just don't come shuffling down the road that often. If there's any justice, this will at least catch the ear of a larger label and get some wider distribution. Given more exposure, Weider has the potential of becoming a major act with his own band.
EKG Recordings, a division of ELK Entertainment
13 Forty Oaks Road, PO 1096
Whitehouse Station, New Jersey 08889
302 Wall Street, Suite 2B, Kingston, NY 12401
This review is copyright © 2000 by Mark E. Gallo, 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.
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