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Music Review: Brad Wilson – Rocking the Sunset Strip, Live, Cities and Songs

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Brad Wilson is one hard rocking, hard working dude. If you’re a California native (or, at least, a resident for some time) you may very well be familiar with his work since, according to his website, he and his band play over 150 shows a year in that state. He jams at a variety of venues – Harley Davidson events, casino’s, blues and rock clubs, fairs and festivals – and his music is just as diverse. He’s also been featured in two John Carpenter films and has won awards for his songwriting.

It’s difficult to categorize his work. He’s definitely got the power rock guitar down. It’s gritty and full of attitude. Early in his career he apparently played with a glam metal outfit named Shame, though finding info on that band is impossible so far. His metal days come shining through on Rockin’ the Sunset Strip, Volume 1. But he also has an understanding of the blues and those songs are laced with a smoky, alcohol tinged flavor. Unfortunately, he delves into almost a little country/western overtones – but some people might actually like that.

Here are a few thoughts on three of his recordings: Rocking the Sunset Strip, Volume 1; Brad Wilson Live; and Cities and Songs.

 

Rocking the Sunset Strip Volume 1

Wilson shows his metal roots on these tracks. “Walk the Streets” and “We Could Be Lovers” sound like they came right from the mid-80s. The vocals are shrieked at high pitch and the Gibson’s squeal. The guest female vocalist for the third track has a razor sharp wail that blends well with the heavy rhythm of Wilson’s guitar. This is great music to put on while cleaning out your garage or the backyard. It won’t irritate the neighbors too much and it also takes you back to your youth with its retro hair metal overtones, making you feel a like you still have the strength to just throw that lawnmower out to the lawn.

Wilson also throws in a groovy, bluesy track. “Knights Bridge” drops the tempo of the album. It’s an odd change of gears but the song is worth the listen. Wilson’s guitar work makes almost anything worth a listen. The last track, “Madhouse,” takes us back to the glam. Once again, the souls of Dokken and Skid Row are summoned.

 

Brad Wilson Live

This one’s all blues and Wilson sounds like a pro. He’s a California native, not a southern boy, but you’d not know it when listening to his music. The band is tight, snappy and full of soul. Comparison’s have been made to Stevie Ray Vaughn and he certainly comes to mind, especially on track three, “I Can‘t Quit You Baby”. The album’s also reminiscent of George Thorogood, only Wilson doesn‘t have quite the attitude that Thorogood possesses. Live makes you feel like you’re at an outdoor blues festival; you just want to find a table, grab a beer and get lost in the smooth warmth of the music.

Having said that, the record seems slow, especially if you listen to it after Rocking the Sunset Strip. But, if you’re a blues fan, Wilson’s a satisfying pick. He and his band sound great live; that’s a sign of a great band and someone who truly understands his music. As mentioned, Wilson tours a great deal. Judging from this album and the press releases, you won’t be disappointed by his show.

Cities and Songs

Cities and Songs is part live and part studio. The live tracks again show his blues sensibilities. He sounds a lot like Bob Seger on these tracks. He infuses them with emotion and the road weary motif of Seger, while also embracing the west and especially California history. The only problem with some of these songs is that they have the icky flavor of county songs on occasion. If you like country, I guess you’ll like these songs.

Interestingly, the studio tracks have a better tempo than the live set. Some of the live songs get a little boring after a few listens despite the astute musicianship of this stellar guitarist. But the studio tracks have energy. In the studio, Wilson once again loses some of his blues nature and reverts to old metal.

 

Not much could be found about the rest of the band that plays with him, but they are first rate. Strong rhythm, excellent timing. They provide a solid foundation for the formidable guitar of Brad Wilson. These CD’s are all worthy additions to anyone’s music library.

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