New music is a reason to walk through the door

  • Philip B. Price. Contributed photo—

  • Emily Duff and Wildcat O'Halloran. Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 2/18/2021 9:02:37 AM

“This whole year been getting you down/cheering up is a chore/It’s my job as an entertainer/ to give people reason to come through the door,” sings veteran bluesman Wildcat O’Halloran, of Sunderland, on the bouncy title track off his new album, “You Can’t Fall Off the Floor.” 

Unfortunately, the Wildcat can’t get us through any doors at the moment, but he does entertain us with this humorous track — one that gives a nod to the pandemic and reassures us that while killer hornets, schools being closed and feuding politicians may lead us to drink at least we can’t fall off the floor. 

This song, like many of the others leaves a smile on one’s face.

“You Can’t Fall Off the Floor,” which was recorded during the pandemic is the Wildcat O’Halloran band’s 16th release and the follow up to last year’s “Deck of Cards.” That album had a turbulent beginning in that Wildcat’s drummer suffered a near-fatal heart attack during rehearsal for the project and then it had the unfortunate release date of March 15, 2020, just about the exact time that everything shut down. 

This meant no live shows except for a few socially distanced local shows that they were able to play over the summer. Despite its rocky start, “Deck of Cards,” has done well, receiving positive reviews and airplay on over 250 stations around the world.

O’Halloran has a longtime presence on the local blues scene, and has opened shows for the likes of Greg Allman and John Lee Hooker and even once served as Bo Diddley’s backing band. He’s been extremely prolific in recent years, cranking out albums at a regular pace, with each release bolstering his exposure on the national scene. 

“You Can’t Fall off the Floor” is a mix of covers and originals and includes plenty of O’Halloran’s trademark humor and scorching guitar work and is sure to further boost his profile and appeal to both new and old fans.

O’Halloran is backed by Mark Chouinard on drums, David Kenderain on bass, and Emily Duff on Saxophone. Duff, who is jazz-educated musician, has a prominent role on the disc with O’Halloran providing her plenty of space to stretch out and show off her talent. This is evident right from the start, the disc opens with an almost 7-minute cover of Howlin‘ Wolf’s “Worried About You,” which particularly starts with an incredible solo by Duff. The song also features some call and response between and Duff and O’Halloran and overall showcases the incredible interplay between the two (they even slip in a riff from the Beatles “Day Tripper”), giving the listener a good indicator of what lies ahead on this album. 

They follow with their take on Ray Charles’ “Mary Ann,” with Chouinard and Kenderain providing the perfect launchpad for O’Halloran and Duff to soar.

If you have attended one of The Wildcat O’Halloran Band’s many local shows, you know that O’Halloran is a natural-born storyteller and he even displays the skill on this disc as he introduces the song “Pirate Queen,” which is about Duff. As O’Halloran explains Duff works part-time as a musician on cruise ships. 

She was on a cruise sailing in Asia when COVID-19 broke out and no country wanted the ship to dock. As a result, she was at sea for 62 days before cruising through the Suez Canal (hence the pirate reference) landing in Gibraltar, and eventually flying home out of Britain. 

After an experience like that, Duff, who is from Becket, deserves a blues song devoted to her.

“Facebook U” is a hilarious song about what passes for truth on Facebook, with O’Halloran singing, “If I wanted fake news, I’d buy a fake newspaper” is catchy and danceable.

While things slow down with a smoldering cover of “Angel of Mercy,” and “Crossin’ Off,” a song that originally appeared on 2014’s “Party Up in Heaven.” The latter isn’t the kind of upbeat, danceable material we’ve come to expect from the Wildcat O’Halloran Band. It’s a sad and beautiful song, with Duff’s sax work taking it to another level and helps to make it one of the most memorable songs O’Halloran has ever written.

The album wraps up on a high note with songs like the rocking “Too BigTo Cry,” and the jazzy funk of “Take Me for A Little While.” Wildcat O’Halloran is a serious musician who never takes himself too seriously. 

On “You Can’t Fall Off the Floor,” O’Halloran proves he’s a true bluesman, yet one who always wants his audiences to have a good time which is something we could all use right now.

Philip Price,‘Oceans Hiding in Oceans’

“Oceans Hiding in Oceans,” the new solo album by Winterpills frontman Philip B.Price, will be released on Friday (Feb. 19) and he will celebrate with a virtual release show that night at 8 p.m.

Price, whose last solo album was 2019’s “Bone Almanac,” wrote, produced and played every instrument on these 11 tracks, recorded in his home studio during the lockdown. 

Of course, the pandemic informs some of the work here as he grapples with some of the anxieties and emotions we are all experiencing and tries to find some light at the end of the tunnel (and sometimes does find it).

“I won’t lie, it was a rough time. This was an album of dire necessity,” he has said of the making of “Oceans Hiding in Oceans.”

On the melodic “Loneliness,” which he sings over a piano, strings and acoustic guitar, he approaches loneliness as if it were a friend he’s trying to cozy up to. 

“I never knew such a sweet love as you, my loneliness,” he sings. 

Then on “Scarred for Life,” a rocker with some scorching guitar and fierce piano playing, he wonders if our current experience will scar us for life. It’s a song of someone pondering the future while struggling with the present.

These two tracks couldn’t sound more different, and the variety of styles and influences that seep into these songs is a big part of what makes “Oceans Hiding in Oceans,” such a compelling listen.

Price has said that he had a different songwriting process this time, one that was impacted by his toddler’s steady diet of “Raffi” and “Baby Shark,” which he embraced as well as the work of a wide range of other artists, everyone from Dolly Parton to Tyler the Creator. 

As a result, we hear a spectrum of sounds and moods on “Oceans Hiding in Oceans.”

The opening track, “This is the Last thing,” is a synth-pop delight. “First Hail,” with its flute accompaniment, is reminiscent of the trippy folk-rock of sixties stalwart, Donovan, while “Paleflower” brings to mind Price’s old power pop band, the Maggies.

On “Oceans Hiding in Oceans” Price forges through these uncertain times and creates a pop/rock album that is not all dark. On the contrary, his keen pop sensibilities and gift for poetic lyrics make this an enjoyable listen and welcome addition to his already impressive catalog.

To view the Feb. 19 concert, visit signaturesoundspresents/homesessions.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at soundslocal@yahoo.com.




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