Booga Music/Vizztone Label Group
Andy Watts was bitten by the blues bug when he was twelve. He started playing guitar and developing a reputation as Israel’s Ambassador of the blues, bringing in the world’s leading artists to perform and record with his band The Blues Rebels. They released their first album “Open Road” in 2015, and followed up with 2016’s “Voodoo Land” produced by Joe Louis Walker. The band has played all over Israel and Europe, opening for Johnny Winter, and sharing the stage with Lucky Peterson and Bernard Allison.
Watts released his highly acclaimed solo debut “Blues On Fire” in 2018. This new album is co-produced by Watts and Kenny Neal, and recorded at studios in Maabarot and Tel Aviv. He is joined by eleven of Israel’s best blues musicians and special guests: Walker, vocalist Eliza Neals, and harp ace Coastin’ Hank.
Half of the ten tracks are originals written by Watts; while the other five are songs that screamed to be covered. Watts opens with the title track, an instrumental, inspired by the early 1960’s bands. Guitarist Watts is featured with keyboardist Eyal Klein’s B-3, and Ioram Linker’s baritone saxophone; rounding out the band are Gregory Rivkin, trumpet; and the rhythm section of bassist Ilan Hillel, and drummer Tom Bollig.
“Straight Shooting Woman” features vocalist Danny Shoshan, former member of the Israeli rock band Jericho Jones, while band regular Tom Mochiach takes over on bass. “Burning Deep” features lyrics co-written by Dov Hammer of The Blues Rebels, a vocal by special guest Walker, and Moran Bar-On added on trombone. “Don’t Take My Blues Away” is sung by Jamaican born blues singer Roy Young a long-time Israeli resident, and features some great harmonica from the mysterious Coastin’ Hank. My favorite “Raw” is sung by rock singer Gadi Altman and features Watts’ guitar, and Blues Rebel’s Matan Eskanazy on keyboards.
The five screamin’ covers include Rick Estrin’s “Living Hand to Mouth” sung by Roy Young, and first recorded by Rick Estrin and the Nightcats on their 2017 album “Groovin’ In Greaseland”. Coastin’ Hank once again plays harp, an Estrin alias, it is also the name of one of his tunes found on the Nightcats’ 2002 album “That’s Big”.
“Pack It Up”, first recorded by Freddie King in 1974, is also sung by Young as Watts channels the guitar god. “Blues of The Month Club” written by Dan Penn, Gary Nicholson and Carson Whittset, was the title track of Walker’s 1995 album on Polydor, and is fabulously sung by Neals as she is accompanied by the three-piece horn section. “Don’t You Let Me Down” written by Jericho Jones’ Miki Gavrielov, is reprised by ex-bandmate/vocalist Shoshan, as it was first recorded by them in 1972.
The closer is the instrumental “Supernatural” written by Peter Green, who Watts acknowledges as a primary influence; Watts plays some beautifully evocative guitar as he is accompanied by Rivkin’s trumpet, Bollig’s beats, and Klein’s B-3.
Watts is a fine guitarist and a meticulous producer. This notable recording should further establish him as an International Ambassador to the Blues.