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Music Review: Boy Wells – Blue Skies Calling

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Boy Wells (real name Mark Schultz) has a lot of years and miles under his belt. During the late 1970s he played the country bar circuit along Route 1 in Virginia and Maryland. In the ’80s he performed southern rock and blues with the bands Blue Southern and The Habits. During the ’90s he played guitar in a number of groups including an Allman Brothers tribute band called Southern Legend with former Molly Hatchett drummer Bruce Crump. Today he has located outside of Austin, Texas, where he continues to write and perform. He is one of those musicians who have remained dedicated to his craft despite never having enjoyed a commercial breakthrough.

He began his career as a disciple of Danny Gatton with whom he learned to play the guitar. Despite being ranked at number 63 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” Gatton has been called “the world’s greatest unknown guitarist.” Boy Wells learned his lessons well and has emerged as a talented and technically adept guitar player in his own right. Unfortunately he is trying not to become the next “world’s greatest unknown guitarist.”

He has now released his debut album, Blue Skies Calling. It features Wells on vocals and guitar, plus bassist John Prevetti, drummer Bruce Crump, and violin/mandolin player Rickie Simpkins. Some of the support musicians include saxophonist Bill Watson, keyboardist Brian Simms, harp player Jimi Lee, and Becky Taylor on banjo.

While he moves in a number of directions such as New Orleans funk and jazz (“Mr. Coluzzi”) and country (“Tin Winter” and “Traveller”), it is in the southern rock and blues style that he is most comfortable and able to display the chops that make him one of the better guitarists working today.

The blues tracks (“World Weary And Blue,” “Love In Vain,” and “Devil’s Backbone Blues”) show Wells to be a competent songwriter as well as a guitar virtuoso. And he rocks out southern style with “Bring It Back,” “Broke Down,” “Mon Angel,” and the title track.

The instrumentals (“Marcel Marsupial” and “Tova”) present him at his most pure as his technique is easily discernible. They also have an improvisational feel as he stretches and expands the structures and melodies of these songs.

A real interesting treat is the inclusion of a CD-ROM featuring a one-hour guitar lesson given to Wells by Gatton. It was taped during the late ’70s in Gatton’s living room and finds the teacher and student trading guitar licks.

Hopefully Blues Skies Calling will enable Boy Wells to gain some attention and commercial success. His skills deserve to make him, if not one of music’s best known guitarists, then at least a recognizable one. If you are a fan of the blues/southern rock style of music, this album is worth a listen.

 

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