Blues Blast Magazine Review

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.51.46 AMCharlie Wheeler – Blues Karma And The Kitchen Sink


Self Release

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.

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Charlie Wheeler Interview with blues.gr

Charlie Wheeler Interview with blues.gr

Charlie sat down with the folks at Blues.gr, the definitive source for blues music in Greece, for an in-depth interview. Here’s their exchange:

What do you learn about yourself from the Rock n’ Roll culture and what does the blues mean to you?

I’ve learned that I live and exist on that “maturity level tipping point,” that people need to walk professional musician road. If one tips towards the mature side, one becomes too sensible, his better judgement sends him back to the suburbs, he starts a family, and while he sits on the sidelines of his kid’s soccer game, he wonders what happened to his dream of being a touring musician. If one tips towards the immature side, you can’t remember to pack your toothbrush, guitar picks or forget your wallet on your dresser at home, only to realize it at the first place you stop to get gas. It’s like walking a razor’s edge. You have to be a big enough idiot to even try this business, but not so big of an idiot that you keep having to call your brother for bail money.
“The blues” means a few things to me. As a music genre, it means history, poetry and inspired genius. Generally, these moments of genius were fueled by extreme poverty and oppression. Most of the original blues men had parents and most certainly grandparents who were slaves at one point in their lives. I can only imagine what that would do to your psyche. Out of that suffering came the single greatest American music form ever created.
As it pertains to my own personal life (not that it matters that much, but since you asked), it can possibly be described as emotional, soulful moments in my existence when musical inspiration happens. Sometimes it’s positive, most of the time not.

How do you describe Charlie Wheeler sound and songbook?

Our sound is a linear, muscular, aggressive style of blues-rock that has many influences, from the Allman Brothers to Bootsy Collins to early Pearl Jam to Stevie Ray Vaughan, even a little Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead. I insist upon tight production in both the recording studio and on the live stage. I don’t love organized chaos. It’s hard to be consistent. It’s also quite a large sound for a trio…we make a lot of music for just three guys. Luckily, my band Bassist Dave Fink and Drummer Rad Akers both really buy into this philosophy. Sometimes it can take us 2 months to get a song into the live show. It has to right and it has to be tight. I really appreciate those guys for their diligence. We all realize that it pays off in the end.
As far as the songbook, I’d describe it as a group of mature, fully developed songs, sometimes simple, sometimes complicated, but always complete. You see man, I write music that I want to hear, for myself. I want it to kick me in the chest, move my emotions, stir my soul. If it doesn’t do that, why bother?

What characterizes your musical philosophy?

In a word, I’d say “discerning.” I throw a lot of half written songs in the waste basket. Why try to push a song that isn’t going anywhere. It either has a hook or it doesn’t have a hook. I am very choosy with what I even share with my family and band. If I can’t envision the audience digging the groove or lyrics I’m working on, why would I bore my band or my family with it? It’s like what my friend Preach Freedom (long time Rusted Root drummer and current solo artist) said to me. He said “Charlie there are only two types of music, GOOD and BAD.” A rather subjective statement yes, but we all have our own judgement that helps us discern between what we like and what we don’t.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

A long time ago, when living in Colorado, I played in a band with a fantastic Bassist named Eric. I was writing a lot of songs with decent lyrics, but I was very new to songwriting. He came to me after about three practices and said “Charlie your songs are so nice and melodic.” I said “Thanks Eric.” He then said to me “can I make one more observation about your songs?…they F@*#king BORING!!” I was astonished, but then I sat back and thought, you know what? He’s right, my songs ARE boring. So even though I can’t remember Eric’s last name, he made a huge impact on my songwriting. Also in Colorado, I met a songwriter named Steve Davis and his advice has always stayed with me. He said “it doesn’t matter what you look like, who you know or where you come from; you have to have great songs. If you have great songs, you have something to work with.” So song quality is always my number one priority…along with not being boring.
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us? Well, I was just at a show last week and watched a “little person” (sometimes called a midget) kick the crap out of somebody (who absolutely deserved it). Playing live gigs for the public is just one big, wild crazy ride man. But if it’s not current material, why tell the story.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the young kids being into rock music. I miss kids sitting around talking about which keyboardist was their favorite in Grateful Dead history, or who the bassist for Little Feat was. I miss the poetry and thoughtfulness that Rock Music embraced. It just seems like so much of popular music today is about getting high, drunk, laid, rich or in a fight. I miss the days when being an intellectual songwriter was considered the cool thing.
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be? Other than Charlie Wheeler Band becoming a household name? I’d stop the degradation of music in schools. No wonder these kids don’t appreciate skilled musicianship. Half of them have never touched an instrument. We have to save music programs in our schools. It’s a huge issue and it’s where societies begin to break down. Decisions like that.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues from Black Crowes and The Allman Brothers Band, to Pearl Jam?

In my humble and rather meaningless opinion on the matter, it’s simply a common thread between all of these bands. They all derive from the blues man. They’re not blues bands, but they sure do the blues a lot of justice. Look at The Allmans, they got famous playing Elmore James and Blind Willie McTell…the Black Crowes got their first big hit with Otis Redding’s Hard to Handle…And Pearl Jam’s guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard made their music with big, bad ass riffs, all based in the blues scales. Same with me. I listen to Duane Allman, Marc Ford, Mike McCready, and all I hear is Elmore James and Robert Johnson…just, I don’t know, evolved ya know? Like “post Hendrix blues.”

How has the Rock n’ Blues Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Well I guess I’ve always had a little rebel in me and I needed a soundtrack. After I got kicked out of college I hung around the Dead tour, drove out west, lived in places like Telluride, Colorado and San Francisco, California (before settling in Pennsylvania). I realized that freedom is something I can’t take for granted, and time is something I can’t waste. I like to think I’ve done well in these two categories. And wouldn’t that embody what the counterculture is? Staying motivated, and not wasting any of the precious time we have. Being counterculture doesn’t mean “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out” anymore. For me it means, be free to experiment with what works best for you in your life.
What is the impact of Blues and Rock music to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Well, musicians have always been messengers. 99.9% of all parents would never encourage their kids to become musicians. But when there is a societal issue, who do we always seem to hear from? Artists, musicians, authors, actors, directors, etc. Look, everyone is on their own trip politically and socially, so there is no answer that will catch all points of view in one net. I would state that when one has the microphone, they do have power, power to influence and power to persuade. So use that power wisely.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day..? I’d have to say Woodstock, but only if we were on stage with all of those amazing bands. Then we could hang with Jimi.

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5 Star Album Review by Roots Music Report

Album Review of Blues Karma and the Kitchen Sink, Charlie Wheeler Band
Charlie Wheeler Band is a blue’s rock trio out of Northern PA. Charlie Wheeler on lead vocals and guitar, self-wrote all the lyrics that tell stories of life, love, and “living life on the edge”. Charlie and Dave Fink (Bass Guitar and Backing Vocals) deliver music that is energetic and engaging. Each song has its own style at times it can be funny, deep, light, or heavy. The songs are filled with tireless and lively guitar work that is to quote: “reckless, pent-up hostility.” A few strong and compelling songs on the album, “Blues Karma and The Kitchen Sink” are “People Keep on Talkin'”, “Flicker away”, “Follow Me Down”.
Brook Anastasia


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Review by Norman Darwen, flyinshoes.ning.com

“Charlie has obviously listened to a lot of Hendrix. You can hear it strongly in the lurching guitar work, tempo, and melody of ‘Choir Of 1000 Angels’ and the riff and general approach and feel of ‘Flicker Away’, the soul tinged rock of ‘Love You The Same’ and the guitar work of the closing ‘Butterfly’..That’s certainly no bad thing in my book, and Charlie certainly does not overdo it. Indeed, when it is coupled with other tracks such as the spacious and memorable ‘Shiver’ and the straight ahead Americana tinged rock of ‘One Of These Days’, the resulting album is a real, no-nonsense winner. This blues-rocking trio is out of northern Pennsylvania and Charlie writes some good songs – try the coolly rocking ‘Never Can Tell’ or the indie-flavoured funk of ‘Love Gets In The Way’ – making this CD well worth the effort involved in tracking it down.”
-Norman Darwen

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New Albume Review by Peter Merrett, Melbourne Australia

CHARLIE WHEELER BAND – “Blues Karma And The Kitchen Sink”.
“Quite a powerful rocking offering from The Charlie Wheeler Band that as a trio lack nothing. Their intensity and grittiness are engaging as much as they are relentless in their distinctive sound. Wheeler has a voice perfectly suited to the sound and feel the band strives for and as musicians they are fearless in that pursuit. All in all l was not sure what to expect with this album as The Charlie Wheeler Band are new to us, wow what a revelation they are when it comes to Rock/Blues. They outfit certainly embody just that. Might not appeal to the Blues aficionado but if you like your Southern Blues all wrapped up in rock then this is the outfit and the album for you. If you do desire this style then everything about this album is stunning. Congratulations guys, your playing is wonderful, Charlie you have a great voice and man you can write a song my man, you certainly can write a great song!!!!”
Peter Merrett, Melbourne Australia

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Post from Charlie, 9-5-16

The most powerful thing in the world is the human thought. Nothing of consequence happens, not a pick up line at a bar, not a fish getting caught, not a nuclear rocket being launched, without the human mind conjuring, tacking, finagling, incanting.

So using my crack deductive reasoning skills, I’ve surmised that words by default, become the 2nd most powerful things on earth.  Before we launch the nukes we say “fire” (or “you’re fired” in Donald Trump’s case). Now that I’ve now figured out my biggest problem, my most adaptive tool and my strongest asset, I should have something profound to say… But the words escape me.

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