12 songs – 58 minutes
The Charlie Wheeler Band are a three-piece based in Ridgway, PA, and Blues Karma And The Kitchen Sink is their fourth studio album. Essentially, they play traditional blues-rock, mixing equal parts of blues, classic rock, rock ‘n’ roll and Southern Rock, but they play it with such attitude, emotional commitment, technical facility and no little humour that it is impossible not listen to it without a smile on your face and some movement in your feet.
Wheeler himself provides the vocals and guitars, in addition to writing all 12 songs on the album. His voice suits the music perfectly, carrying an assertiveness and confidence, albeit often with more than a hint or two of rage. He is also a fine guitarist, turning in some cracking solos, particularly on the gospel-southern rock of “Choir Of 1000 Angels”. The rock solid rhythm section of Rad Akers on drums and Dave Fink on bass provides the key foundation over which Wheeler can extemporize at will.
The band have a reputation for expansive, improvisational jamming at their live shows. Here however, the focus is very much on the songs. Mainly mid-paced, the tracks run the gamut from the classic rock of opener “People Keep On Talkin’” (with its street-smart opening lines of “Well, lately I’ve been laying kinda low. Sticking to the shadows in the place that I call home. But the people seem to bear witness, keeping their minds on my own business, telling everybody about the things they think they know.”) to the Allman Brothers’-esque “Never Can Tell” with its major key melody reminiscent of Dickie Betts and the poppy edge of “Love Gets In The Way”.
Smartly treading a fine line between riff-based tracks like the wah-wah-infused “Flicker Away” and heavy pop-rock chordal approach of “Shiver”, this is Fridaynight music, perfect for celebrating the weekend over a few beers while empathizing with your mates over the challenges of the weekly grind as the music provides a soundtrack of potential improvement. As Wheeler sings on “One Of These Days”, “One of these days, I’ve gonna get up off the ground, dust off my jeans and hold my head up proud. One of these days, I’m gonna get myself a job so I can get some money and buy a brand new car. One of these days I’m gonna get it together. Might be tomorrow, yeah, it might be never. Life is a game that you never stop tryin’. Either get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.” There is an intensity to the music that is at times striking. Even the ballad, “Promise Of Daylight”, has a threatening undercurrent.
Blues Karma And The Kitchen Sink was recorded at Graphite Sound in Warren, PA, engineered by Anthony Brown and co-produced by Brown and Wheeler. Brown and Wheeler have done a fine job in capturing a warm, full yet clear sound.
This isn’t blues by any stretch of the imagination, but the blues clearly informs all that they do. If you’re a fan of the Black Crowes or Blackberry Smoke, you will find a lot to enjoy in Blues Karma And The Kitchen Sink. This is music with a punch to it.
Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.