On The Prowl
Stratcat Willie Hayes was first influenced by guitarists Michael Bloomfield, T-Bone Walker, Johnny Winter, and B.B. King. He founded the band “Blue Plate Special” in 1995, and released the album “Hot n’ Tasty” in 2002.
Hayes has been keepin’ the blues alive in New York State’s Southern Tier; in the eight counties along the northern border of Pennsylvania. Since 2002 he has followed-up with two more studio albums and a live set. He has opened for Little Charlie & the Nightcats, Elvin Bishop, and Anson Funderburgh; and shared the stage with musicians from New Orleans, to the Golden Gate.
Hayes recently re-grouped as “Stratcat Willie & the Strays” and returned to the studio with two different rhythm sections. On half the album Hayes, guitar and vocals, is accompanied by his thirty-year companion bassist John Wisor, and drummer Dave Fiorini. While the other rhythm section includes bassist Vinnie Burvee, and drummer Dave Salce. Rounding out the band is keyboardist Neal Massa. The album was recorded at the Eight Days A Week Studios in Northumberland, Pa. where it was engineered, mixed and mastered by Paul Smith.
Hayes has written eight new songs, and reprises some older ones from his days with “Blue Plate Special”. Two songs first appeared on that 2002 album: the up-tempo instrumental “Scramblin’”, and the inspiring “Good News of the Blues”. Three more re-arranged songs first appeared on “Back For Seconds”; Blue Plate Special’s 2004 follow-up recording. The churning “I Know” features a solo from Massa that sets up Hayes’ slide; while the poignant “It’s Just That Way” features Hayes best vocal. “I’ve Got It Bad” is another well written song with the lyric “but damn, it sure feels good”.
“Come On In”, the first of the new songs, opens with Hayes fluid guitar as he tells us his story, while his cohorts chime in for the chorus. On “Sure ‘Nuff Got The Blues” bassist Wisor and keyboardist Massa funk it up, as Hayes’ infectious vocal is again complimented by the call and response of the band. Things heat up further on “Since You Left Me” as Hayes cries “I’m at the end of my rope”; while “I:38 In The Mornin’” features Massa playing both piano and organ as Hayes lays down a smokin’ solo. “Life is Good” is another strong vocal as the band gets into an Allman-like jam.
Hayes’ “Take It Easy, Baby” is a stripped down fifties styled tune featuring bassist Wisor; “Big Easy Bound” is about imagining what it would be like to be on a road trip to New Orleans, while “Eat, Drink, Boogie, Repeat” is about Hayes’ time spent at Beale Street’s Rum Boogie Café.
Stratcat Willie Hayes is a fine songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist. This celebratory set displays a variety of different styles as he pays tribute to the blues.
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