Singing The Blues Once Again: Jay Willie Blues Band Celebrating Its "New York Minute"

Local musician Jay Willie has the blues — again — and that’s a good thing. Jay Willie Blues Band is celebrating its new CD, New York Minute, released in March.

“I feel great about it,” Mr Willie said. He has already had three reviews so far, “and all are outstanding.” The Jay Willie Blues Band includes Johnny Winter’s former drummer Bobby T Torello, a full time musician and father from New Haven, and vocal, guitar, bass player and writer Bob Callahan. Dave Polley, an accomplished bassist who plays live venues with Mr Willie’s band when his schedule allows, plays bass on tracks “New York Minute,” “It’s Your Thing,” and “Tattooed You.”

Following up on the positive feedback from the first album, The Reel Deal, released in 2010, Mr Willie wanted to do a second album “that was better.

“The only criticism to The Reel Deal was that it was only eight tracks,” he explained. “I guess people wish there were more,” he joked. The new release has 15 tracks.

A combination of original and cover songs mixing Texas blues, rock, and ballads, New York Minute welcomes guest musicians who added “youth,” to the album in one case, and “riffs that get into the moment” in another, said Mr Willie.

Featured guest artists are harmonica player Jason Ricci, and Marlou Zandvliet from the Netherlands. Mr Willie first met Mr Ricci in 2008, performing at the Green Parrot in Key West, Fla. “He is an extraordinary talent and like Bobby T Torello, our drummer, he puts his whole being into his performance,” Mr Willie said. Mr Ricci performs on “Hollywood,” “The Wobble,” “You Hurt Me,” and “New York Minute.” Because of his passion on the song “You Hurt Me,” Mr Willie chose to “let the harmonica speak for itself” throughout the entire song. “His harmonica really told the story and the hurt and pain came through the instrument.”

He said, “Jason did such a sorrowful version that we omitted the lyrics for fear of weakening the performance. It is one of my favorite tracks of the recording.”

During the 1950s and 60s, blues performer Little Willie John had a string of hits that included his own “very soulful” version of “You Hurt Me,” said Mr Willie. “I saw a lot of parallels between Willie John and Jason and thought that would come through in the song if Jason performed it.”

Mr Ricci added his part to the four tracks from a studio off-site in Indiana.

Mr Willie discovered Ms Zandvliet on YouTube, calling her a “stunning young singer” who was performing “a quirky rendition of Steve Marriott’s ‘Black Coffee.’”

“I was totally impressed with Ms Zandvliet’s singing and stage presence, particularly after viewing her other posts. It’s amazing that someone her age has developed such a profound understanding of the blues,” he said.

Mr Willie spoke with Ms Zandvliet via the Internet.

“I approached Marlou to do a track on our new CD and she agreed.” The band sent her the files electronically and she added her vocal parts from a London studio.

The album’s title track, a Texas blues ballad by Mr Willie, has old blues inspiration that actually started with another song on the CD: “Going Down Slow” by James Boden.

“It’s a classic early blues song, and Johnny Winter had covered it in an acoustic version, then [Johnny Winter] also wrote ‘Coming Up Fast,’ so these are some of the lyrics in ‘New York Minute,’” which also includes a Johnny Winter riff. The song is about “just getting into the moment, because things don’t last long, so enjoy it while it’s happening,” Mr Willie said.

Mr Willie also wrote “Chain Smokin,” “Tattoo You” and “Best Side of You,” contributing four of the eight originals on the album. The three songs were all written around the same time about six years ago.

Mr Willie said the remaining originals were a “collective effort” among band members. “Much of the writing is just playing riffs and putting lyrics to it.”

Mr Torello co-wrote “Hollywood” and wrote “Watch Pocket,” and “Devil Bones.”

“Crushed up devil bones — it’s about cocaine, the past,” he said. “Listen to it.”

The song’s opening lyrics move at a quick pace, saying, “It’ll kill ya, but there is just no use you need those crushed up devil bones, that powder it’s the devil’s own … That powder it won’t leave you alone.”

He also spoke briefly about “Watch Pocket.

“I thought it was witty — ‘there was a hole in my watch pocket and time kept slipping away’” he said, quoting his song. “It started when I lost my keys through a hole in my pocket.”

The lyrics tell a story about lost love as well as lost time: “Gonna get you back now I’ll get you back some way. There’s one thing that I learned about your not being around, I am the empty shell of a man and the loneliness that I found.”

The song continues, “I gotta pick up all the pieces, start all over again. Gotta have ya back now.”

Another track, “Hollywood,” went through several renditions before the band recorded it for New York Minute. Mr Torello said, “It’s about a woman, ‘the walk will do you good,’” the song says.

Lyrics include Ms Zandvliet asking her man to go to Hollywood “‘cause the walk will do you good. I acted like a real tom girl to let you walk out on my this way, now here I am begging you to come back to stay just one more day.”

Mr Callahan wrote the track “Hoodoo” on this recording, and “he was very supportive and influential during the mastering process,” Mr Willie said.

New York Minute is also under a new label, Zoho Music in New York. Label president Jochen Becker wanted to “live up to the label’s reputation supplying good music and a good value. We worked hard together to collaborate on the material and put out a quality CD with 15 strong song tracks,” Mr Willie said.

Not only did the band have more tracks and spend more time mixing the music, Mr Willie said, “The recording sessions went very smooth due to pre rehearsals.”

Mr Torello said, “We went right in there and rolled right through the songs; I am very happy with the CD.”

Mr Willie also kept a budget. “The  feeling was that rather than save costs, spend that additional time fine tuning.”

The CD, released March 12, is available on Amazon.com, CDbaby.com, and Zohomusic.com, among other locations. A CD release party will be determined.

Hear the new tracks at www.CDbaby.com/cd/jaywilliebluesband, or visit JayWillieBluesBandHome.com to learn about upcoming shows and other band information.


Jay Willie

Great article!

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