By Chris Wheatley
Any record emanating from acclaimed swamp-blues master Kenny Neal’s Booga Music label is bound to come with high standards attached. Released this September 4th via said company in cooperation with Vizztone Label Group, Supergroove, by premiere blues Israeli guitarist Andy Watts, is an eye-catching addition to the catalogue. Watts is highly regarded in the blues field, having performed with many of the best–Johnny Winter, Lucky Peterson, and Bernard Allison among them. Supergroove also features the talents of veteran blues master and Grammy nominee Joe Louis Walker, singer-songwriter Eliza Neals, soul singer Roy Young, and a host of top-class backing players. Half of the ten tracks presented here are Watts originals, with the balance of compositions by Freddie King, Joe Louis Walker, Coastin’ Hank and others.
Title-track “Supergroove” is a good representation of the album as a whole; a slithering, smoking blues blast, with hot horns, R&B honks and vamping organ. With a large dose of fun and sparkle, this track will put a smile on the face of even the most sullen listener. It breezes along with a good-time slick-sounding vibe. There’s a sunny sheen to the production, which is bright and clear and balanced to perfection. When needed, the brass is cutting and high, but there’s a large amount of subtlety here, which warrants repeated spins. The organ and percussion, for example, are so nicely integrated that it takes some concentration to pick up on how clever the arrangement is.
The star, of course, is Watt’s guitar wizardry. There are shades of the cutting-edge of Hendrix, but Watts’ influences and capabilities are manifold. He can move from super-slick, boiling-under lines to ringing, stinging solos with remarkable ease and conviction.
The same luminous, classic feel runs throughout the album. On slower cuts, such as the winding “Burning Deep,” Watts sounds equally at home, sparking one-notes, stirring embers with fiery backing-riffs and calling out those wild, mournful blues phrases. His playing is never less than eminently appealing. Although a significant portion of each cut is given over to Watts, he is a player with enough generosity to never overburden or unbalance a song. Joe Louis Walker on vocals is equally expressive, soulful.
The assembled musicians sound as organically united as any you will hear. Horns, organ, bass; they all commit to the groove, calling to mind the total blues-soul of Curtis Mayfield or Isaac Hayes on funky cuts such as “Blues Of The Month Club.” Indeed, the conga-backed “Don’t You Let Me Down” sounds for all the world like a potent mix of Hot Buttered Soul-era Hayes with English blues-rockers The Who. With its rolling drum-breaks, Latin beat, background harmonizing and simple, cutting lyrics, this is a stand-out track on what is a very solid album.
Blues records have a pleasing habit of utilizing straightforward statements of intent for their titles. Supergroove follows that time-honoured fashion and fully lives up to its name. The variety of vocals add much to the listener’s interest. Joe Louis Walker, Eliza Neals, soul-man Roy Young, plus Israeli singers Danny Shoshan and Gadi Altman do a fine job with very different approaches.
Watts and Kenny Neal have conjured here an intriguing and superbly enjoyable set. It’s clear that the Israeli guitarist draws inspiration from a wide canvas and possesses the ability to bring those varied elements together to produce something, that while reminiscent of a host of classic recordings, remains wholly original in and of itself. Whenever I hear such music, my first thought is that I would love to browse through that musician’s record collection. If you are a fan of modern blues, you should certainly consider adding Supergroove to your own.
Watch “Burning Deep feat. Joe Louis Walker”
Order link Supergroove
Andy Watts Online