Blues fans can be pretty hard to impress. The form itself is limited, and the genre was arguably perfected long ago – how could one possibly improve upon the music of T-Bone, Muddy, or the Wolf?
Still, the blues is music of life and passion, and occasionally a young performer comes along to remind us of two important aspects; that despite the seriousness of much of the subject matter, it’s still as much a young person’s game as rock ‘n’ roll, and that it’s supposed to make us feel better, not worse.
Enter Dani Wilde, seemingly an unlikely candidate for blues stardom – she’s a young lady based in Brighton, UK. But she slings guitar with startling aplomb and sings with raw, soulful passion. And somehow, even when she’s delivering material with gut-wrenching anguish, her music never bogs down with the weight of pretension or reverence.
And then there’s her secret weapon – younger brother Will “Harmonica” Wilde, a seriously talented harmonica player who manages to forge a unique sound on that humblest of instruments. He’s a bit of a wild man (pun intended), favoring blistering flurries of notes, but it’s the surprising twists he puts into his lines, the choked endings to his wailing interjections that render his playing uniquely effective.
Production on Wilde’s debut gives every instrument a modern, in-your-face presence – the sound is big, without a lot of aural space – but to everyone’s credit, there’s no overplaying. Arrangements are tight but impeccably executed, with particularly effective work from organist “Morg” Morgan. And Wilde is possessed of truly remarkable pipes, with an astonishing range that can see her go from guttural growl to piercing shriek effortlessly.
Mature listeners might find some of the material callow – the only darkness here, really, is the blue of disappointment, not despair. Wilde wrote eight of the tunes, and while there’s nothing terribly awkward or forced in her imagery, songs like “I Love You More Than I Hate Myself” and her passionate pleading on “I Want Your Loving” reveal a resolutely youthful approach to life and love. She'll need to dig a little deeper into the emotional spectrum than lyrical one-night stands to make a lasting mark. She’s fine on the covers here – an acoustic “I’m In The Mood,” a boppy “Little By Little,” and a genuinely moving gospel-infused “I’m Going Down.” But her own songs rely on sizzling performances and aren’t the type to stand the test of time, though the bouncy “Slow Coach,” featuring excellent harmonica, is utterly irresistible.
Wilde is clearly passionately committed to her music, delivers scorching yet tasteful fretwork, and shows a sure hand at arranging available resources. There’s much to like here, and enormous potential. Ms. Wilde is definitely one to watch!