Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Album Review: BJ Wilbanks- BJ Wilbanks

BJ Wilbanks
***and1/2 out of *****

The first full length, self titled release from the Georgia based sing/songwriter BJ Wilbanks is a strong mix of retro soul and Americana that instantly grabs the listener. Reminiscent of past sounds but also confidently striding forward

Right from the opening notes of "Healin' My Blues" the confidence of Wilbanks shines through. The crisp horns, firm rhythm section and soulful crooning from the front man are powerful. This tune is an album highlight from the start, but things stay strong with "Tied Up & Twisted" and the excellent confessional "I Can't Help It" which sounds like a Stax Records outtake from the labels glory days.

His sound is clearly devoted to R&B acts of the late 50's early 60's but there are modern day contemporaries who also float in these same retro soul waters such as St. Paul & The Broken Bones who Wilbanks shares a cohesive sound. Like Paul Janeway of that band, Wilbanks solid vocals float on top of and when needed cut through the strong production and musicality of the songs here.

The piano led, harmonica added slow ramble of "Livin' Off The Land" is a more polished field song in the vein of William Elliott Whitmore and "My Whole Life" ends the record on a touching somber tone. Being a first release there are a few tracks that don't hold up as well as the best tracks. "Change Your Mind" contains some great wah-wah guitar, yet the overall effort drags in the middle while "Cui Bono?" moves towards the rock/blues and doesn't contain the power of the more soul orientated offerings.

However, this self titled release is a clear success, capturing a warm sound and an emotive singer who inhabits his songs. Wilbanks categorizes his own sound as "Back Porch Soul", that is a fairly accurate description and if he keeps putting out albums as solid as this one his houses back porch is going to be getting a whole lot larger.
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

And as a bonus check out his cover of one of RtBE's favorite all time songs:

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