(1999 'Delmark') (72:47/14) So langsam entwickelt sich der ehemalige Gitarrist von Mississippi Heat zu einem kompetenten Bandleader und Musiker, der unter eigenem Namen ein zwar unspektakuläres doch schönes zweites Album für Delmark vorlegt / from a much-in-demand accompanying guitar player in various bands from Otis Rush to Mississippi Heat Wheeler has established himself as a leader. This is his second release for Delmark, a rock solid piece of Chicago style blues.
A lot has been happening for James Wheeler in the last couple years. He was
primarily known as a guitar playing sideman but his 1998 album 'Ready' (Delmark 719) and recent tours of Europe and South America have established
James as leader. Living Blues magazine in a review of Ready! said "Wheeler
sings and plays with polished authority. How could such a tasteful and talented
musician have slipped through the cracks for so long?" Wheeler first started
his own band in '63 which backed many greats as they passed through Chicago
including Al Green, Johnny Taylor, Etta James and others. He did lengthy stints
with Otis Clay, Otis Rush, Mississippi Heat and is currently playing guitar
as a member of Willie Kent & The Gents. Can't Take It is James' second
Delmark album and it will further establish him as bandleader and recording
On can't take it James Wheeler emerges as a comfortable alternative to the over-excited, high glitz of modern day blues. Wheeler offers up music that is pleasurable listening in a variety of ways. His clean musicianship is a bright back drop for his lyrical skills, his arrangements are fun with surprising changes and the CD's ability to be both danceable and easy listening is a major accomplishment. You get everything from stick it out, stomp it down boogies to bump and grind, booty squeezin' slow drags. Wheeler is a master storyteller; his tales are full and complete, revealing consequences and results. Most start off as familiar themes that quickly run into intriguing plot twists which show us the reality of love and life with a generous dose of humor.
"I've been writing since '75", Wheeler states. Most of the songs I write have a comedy feel to it. I make a little story line then you can look at it and see the picture. I go from the beginning, to the middle, to the end. I set it up so you can tell the rest of the story. On a lot of them I be crackin' up myself, but there's a little bit of truth in all of it." "Where Did You Stay Last Night?" has Wheeler's milk choco-late voice wrapped around the smooth butter of Sorin's harp. The porch sittin' solos, midway into the tune, have you closing your eyes, feeling a warm summer breeze. Dress tails are swishing and conks are smoothed back as Wheeler rolls into an easy romp on "This Can't Be Happening To Me", a sweaty, juke joint, Ms. Seeley type blues. Wheeler's knowledge of his guitar comes to the fore on "These Hard Hard Times" where he lays out a soul blues social statement.
The guitar and piano skitter and leap around effortlessly, becoming a musi-cal adagio. Wheeler's stinging, fluttering riffs give the song the dark urgency its lyrics suggest and Sorin's moaning harp adds despair. Flynn's subtle, whining slide on "Who Loves You Baby?" is sweet and tasteful amidst a full out shuffle. Saydak's piano prowess is like a hard rain after a drought in the ballad "Sometimes". Stroger infinitely proves himself solid as he creates a well structured pocket, traversing smooth lump shuffles and walking bass lines as Binder firmly holds the musical tower in place. "We just got in there and did it.
What you have to do is listen to what each person is doing. Everybody has to find a spot. It's like when you're cooking. You can't have your stuff on and don't have all the ingredients. So you have to put all these parts together and that's what I do." Can't Take It is quite literally bits and pieces of life gone awry. ....