Tony Wessels & the Revolvers is a band from Atlanta, GA, or rather a project of singer-bassist Tony Wessels with no fewer than 18 Revolvers, including five guitarists. They have released their second album with bluesy songs, mostly from the very relaxed J.J. Cale street.
Tony Wessels is an independent blues artist performing out of Atlanta. The album is his second release. The Revolvers were given their name as they are eighteen individuals that rotate through the band upon Tony’s request to contribute to an individual song.
Tony’s approach was that he would select a song that he wanted to record, be it a cover or an original. Tony provides the lead vocal and plays bass. He would go into the studio with a drummer and record the basics of the song and send it out to his selection of the musicians that he felt would be appropriate to the sound of the song.
They would listen to what was recorded and then determine what they felt that should be added to the song. They would then come into the studio to record their portion. Tony said that the music frequently took a different sound than what he initially had in mind, but with few exceptions the added parts were as the musicians brought to the studio. The only exceptions were for the horn arrangements and backing vocals.
The long list of musicians includes Stevie Vegas on drums, percussion, vibes and mojo. Other drummers include Rick Gilbert and Art McNaughton. Guitarists include Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck, Richie Mays, Jody Worrell, Steve Cunningham (who also plays pedal steel), and Mal Abercrombie (who also provided backing vocals on one track. Stephe “Hobo” Reid and Katorah Wylie play the harmonica. Robert Meadows plays keyboards on three tracks. Danny Bermel plays violin. carl Hunt plays trumpet and Ethan Levitt adds sax. Backing vocals are provided by Alex Wessels, Ry Wessels, Cidney Mills, and Michael Ray.
The album opens with a cover of Brownie McGhee’s “Gonna Move Across the River”. Richie Mays’ slide guitar and Robert Meadows provide a standout arrangement that has little to do with the sound of the original song as Tony’s vocals are accompanied by a ringing chorus behind him. This is not a disparaging remark. The song is an excellent start to the album, just extremely different from the more known original version. Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key to The Highway” has a slightly more traditional approach with Danny Dudeck’s slide guitar out in front. William “Peetie Wheatstraw” Bunch’s “Sweet Home Blues” is the third track and again has Robert Meadows’s organ and Max Abercrombie’s slide ripping through it.
The first original is “Walking with Jody”, which appears to be a reference to Jody Worrell’s guitar work on the song which is the only instrument other than Tony’s bass on the song. This is a short instrumental and the only song Worell appears on. “Smiling Women is the next original song on the album. The song is a fast paced, almost rap, song with Steve Cunningham ‘s guitar as Tony sings about women that “smile all night long, and smiles until the morning comes”. “Broken Man”, another original, is a laid back song featuring only Tony’s bass work with Richie May’s guitar and Rick Gilbert’s drum.
Muddy Water’s “Got My Mojo Working”, which was written by Preston Foster, gets upturned into an entirely new version similar to Tony’s approach to McGhee’s song. Here it becomes a very upbeat song with Clark and Ethan’s horns driving the song and Robert Meadows’s organ also featured. The Water’s penned “Blow Wind Blow” is given a more traditional approach with Danny Dudeck providing the slide and Stephe Reid’s harmonica leading the way.
The next original, “Changed” is a smooth, quiet jazzy touch with Katorah Wylie’s harmonica providing an easy backdrop for Steve Cunningham’s guitar that bursts with sound as an interlude before dropping back into the easy sound that started the song. The final original “Moving On” rocks out with Danny Bermel’s fiddle giving definition and Steve Vegas taking a drum solo. The song definitely stands out from other songs on the album. Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins’ “Cotton” is given a very moody approach with Tony’s vocals approaching almost a whisper and the music sliding over into a bit of bluesy psychedelia.
The album constantly shifts its sound from traditional blues to blues rock and to sounds that are harder to categorize. Likewise, Tony’s vocals are unique and hard to describe. They are smooth and polished with a slightly gruff sound. The album is well worth a listen.
I first listened to the new recording about a month ago and spun one of the tunes, Gonna Move Across the River, during my Thursday show on Blues Music Fan Radio. I commented on the fact that it was a cool upbeat reworking of the Brownie McGhee’s original. About 10 minutes later, Tony pops into BMFR chat to thank me for spinning the tune and then spent about an hour chillin’ with us and chattin’….pretty cool!
Such as the very relaxed Gonna Move Across The River, a cover of Brownie McGhee, which is adorned by a burning slide guitar, which automatically reminds you of Duane Allman. Key To The Highway is of course well known to blues fans and here the very relaxed J.J. Cal treatment.
The sound of J.J. Cale is again present in the funky, lazily grooving Sweet Home Blues with biting slide guitar work. The guitar sound in Walking With Jody goes sharply towards the sound of Roy Buchanan. The vicious, grim, funky Smiling Women is a wonderful song, but it lasts far too short.
Muddy Waters’ Got My Mojo Working gets an exuberantly swinging soulful cover and Blow Wind Blow is also by Muddy. This time, however, contained in a moody shuffling blues. The hand of J.J. Cale can be heard again in the lazy shuffle Changed in which you are startled by unexpectedly splitting hard slide guitar playing.
After the airy, hopping Moving On with funky drums and Danny Bermel’s fiddle, the dark, somewhat Robbie Robertson-esque Cotton closes the album.
What do I love most about Reloaded? It’s our second CD (our prior CD, Loners Ball, was released in 2017) but I still marvel at the fact that so many moving pieces came together to make what I think is a pretty good product. Selecting the musicians provided the basis for The Revolvers part of the band’s name. I played bass and provided the vocals on all tracks. Stevie Vegas, my right-hand man on both CD’s, played percussion on almost every track. Stevie and I went in studio and laid down the foundation (bass, percussion and scratch vocals) for each song. I then decided what instrument to add next and who I wanted to have play that instrument. I sent an MP3 of the bass, percussion and scratch vocals to that musician with no instruction on what to play other than it was going to be a blues CD. I had played with all of the musicians or had seen them perform but I had no idea what they were going to play until they came in studio to record their part. The musicians loved the freedom of this approach and there were very few instances where I asked them to play something different. Some of the songs went in very different directions from what I had envisioned but it worked. I followed this approach for every instrument used in the music. I ended up using 18 different musicians in making Reloaded and with that many people rotating in and out of the project they became, The Revolvers,- an interview with me said guitarist Tony Wessels.
An album that sounds nice and relaxed and is therefore a very pleasant album.
01. Gonna Move Across The River
02. Key To The Highway
03. Sweet Home Blues
04. Walking With Jody
05. Smiling Women
06. Broken Man
07. Got My Mojo Working
08. Blow Wind Blow
10. Moving On