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Music Review: Charles Walker Band – Used and Defiant

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The Charles Walker Band performs mostly in the Midwestern United States. They’re a high-energy group with appearances throughout Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri, as well as their home: the Milwaukee-Madison area of Wisconsin. They’re based in Milwaukee, but their tendrils seem to reach a little farther each time I check the website, plus they’re picking up some more prestigious bookings. Those on the East Coast will have a short but opportune two day period to catch the group, as they’ll be appearing in Williamsport and Philadelphia (PA), and at the Cape May (NJ) Jazz Festival in mid-April.

I’ve been following this band for about three years now and it’s good to see their musicianship and technique growing right along with their reputation. They have a very diverse set-list that changes frequently, plus they’re known to play to audience calls. ‘Defiant’ may be too tame a word to describe the emotional content of some of the selections on Used and Defiant, which all show excellent craftsmanship and musicianship.

All but one selection is original. Robert Johnson’s “Stones in my Passway,” is the second track on the disc and is the single cover, although most would have trouble recognizing it. It’s a jazz-rock-funk treatment that pays tribute to the tune while showing imagination and creativity. The next cut, “One (Nation Under U.S.)", is a slow, blues number which allows guitarist Misha Zigfried far too little room to show off. Track five, “Funky Sexy,” shows some dreamy sax work by the band’s namesake, as well as showcases blues-belter Shanna Jackson’s “Funky Sexy” voice. “Wore Out,” the following selection, again gives Walker a short, 30-second sax solo. Jackson’s voice is versatile, carrying her through treatments from slow blues to funk-rock. The opening of “Arrogance” is reminiscent of the late 1960s-early 1970s short-lived psychedelic soul movement. It also blends in Walker’s jazzy-funk sax in another short solo. “Boogie Woogie” lives up to its name before the final (title) track carries us back to the CD’s theme.

All in all, a very satisfying but all too short sampling of the diverse Charles Walker Band, with some very interesting cover art with absolutely no information about it. You hiding a budding artist from us, Charles? Walker has some excellent talent in the group with him and should allow all of them to stretch out, show off some, and allow us a lot more exquisite listening time.

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About Lou Novacheck

  • fine
    i enjoy this album
    thanks to speak about him