Jay Walter and The Rectifiers "Rectification"
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2021
If you are from the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area of “The North Star State” chances are quite good that you’ve heard of Jay Walter Wilkins. Dating back to 1989, on and off, Jay’s been fronting roots blues and blues rock bands for over thirty years now. Fast forwarding past the years of The Blues Kings, gaps of music inactivity and day jobs, Jay – who is now retired from those jobs – is back and he’s ready to to take things to the next level. “Rectification“, his first release under his own name – Jay Walter and The Rectifiers – could very well make that happen.
Along with Jay, on vocals and harmonica, The Rectifiers on this CD are: John Franken and Dan Schwalbe
on guitars; John Schroder and Chris Johnson on bass; Bruce McCabe on piano and Hammond organ;
and Victor Span on drums. “Rectification” contains eleven tracks of which ten are originals and/or collaborations by Jay and John.
The Rectifiers get their inspiration from fifties style Chicago, Memphis and Gulf Coast blues and to me,
that all translates to my kind of blues – “traditional”. With that said, “Rectifier Man” – the disc’s opening,
will testify to that. It’s a straight up shuffle with John Schroder and Victor Span in a tight rhythm groove;
Bruce McCabe bangin’ out smokin’ piano leads from my favorite part of the piano – those high end right hand keys; gutsy blues guitar licks by John Franken; and front man Jay Walter belting out the blues both vocally and with heated harmonica leads. This is the kind of stuff us purists can listen to all night long.
I’m willing to bet that, regardless of the genre, those of us who often attend shows at live music venues know someone like this. Damn, I’ve already mentally put a three piece band together. The song is titled “The Legend” and by no means is it referring to a Buddy Guy, a John Primer, et al. You see, this is a song about that person whose got all the right gear, a vintage Fender amp and guitar too; Ray ban shades and a fedora hat; tattoos, diamonds and a golden earring; but none of this matters ’cause he just can’t play or sing. His clothes are that perfect retro style with Italian shoes direct from China; he’s totally convinced that he’s where it’s at and will be the next big find: he is indeed a legend…..in his own mind. My suggestion, based on what I’m musically hearing here, is that this guy should take guitar lessons from John and Dan and singing lessons from Jay. Fun and cleverly written track.
Flowing with Memphis soul and funk, “Early Saturday Morning” had me dancing in my chair. Containing the usually good rhythm and dynamite dual guitars, this one is highlighted by Jay and Bruce complimenting each other with their outstanding harmonica and Hammond leads, and Jay sounding his disc’s best on vocals. Very good stuff!
I’m not going to mention any names but I seem to think I might know who Jay is referring to on a track titled “Con Man“. This is a rock-a-billy smoker with more strong rhythm from Victor on the drums and this time Chris on bass; scorching leads from the guitar sparring between John and Dan; and fabulous Jerry Lee type piano runs that definitely add to the rock part of rock-a-billy.
Since I’m a huge fan of Jimmy Reed and my favorite harmonica chords are those high end ones he pretty much patented, I love it when harmonica players include a song of his on their releases. Jay not only did that but he nailed this rendition of “Gonna Find My Baby” (J. Reed), as well.
The disc closes with an instrumental slugfest titled “On The Beam“. It’s basically Jay and John going toe to toe for three rounds (minutes) on the harp and guitar. Think Whammer Jammer.
Other tracks on the excellent release include: “Hitchin’ 94”; “Mean Hearted Woman”; “Saw Me See You”; “Lies And Secrets”; and “Sweet Lovely”. Quite frankly, each and every one of them could have easily been highlighted.
If you’re the kind of listener who enjoys hearing good new music from good new artists that you might not ever get to hear unless someone told you about, here is one and you’ve just been told.
When you do, please tell Jay that the Blewzzman sent you.
“You added some unique twists to the standard blues outline … it has a juke joint, blues bar, rock-n-roll feel, was impressed with the lyrics … it has a good vibe to it … I really, really enjoyed it”
Mark Stary - LISTEN to an interview/podcast with Mark Stary and Jay Wilkins
Yes Margaret, real blues based on The Chicago blues sound and other blues influences does exist. By golly Jay Walter and The Rectifiers actually do live up to the build up of their promo sheet. Unlike some other bands that tout themselves as playing authentic blues but put out nothing but rock songs declaring themselves as bluesmen, here’s a band from Minnesota of all places dishing out the genuine item with dedication and talent to spare. Jay Walter Wilkins and company deliver the goods. Jay is a natural on vocals and expressive on the harmonica. He wrote all the lyrics and wrote or co-wrote all the music excluding the one cover song. He has enlisted solid musicians and co-produced along with John Franken.
Throughout the music drips with authenticity without sounding like copycats. They draw from the wellspring of the blues greats that went before them while making the music sound vibrant and fresh. “Rectifier Man” ponders about the use of vintage equipment, blues men of old while working in a love sentiment. All gears click right from the get go and Jay’s splendid blues voice and harmonica playing take you to the Chicago in your head.
The easy rollin’ blues of “Hitchin’ 94 muses on hitching on I-94. “The Legend” paints a picture of a somewhat phony music “star” using a super infectious guitar riff. Jay stretches out on harp over Bruce McCabe’s “tinkling” piano and the usual guitar goodness of John Franken and Dan Schwalbe on the upbeat “Mean Hearted Woman.” The band toughens up their approach a bit on the muscular Chicago Blues of
“You Saw Me See You”.
The slow blues of “Lies and Secrets” is a good change of pace. It owes much to the classic tortured blues tomes of days gone by. It’s back to more upbeat blues sounds on “Early Saturday Morning (Worky’s Song). John Schroder’s sturdy bass pattern supports the Chicago groove of “Sweet Lovely”. The hep cat jive of “Con Man” is made more enticing with the addition of boogie woogie piano and rockabillyish guitar.
The lone cover Jimmy Reed’s “Gonna Find My Baby” stays true to the master’s easy loping style. Bringing down the curtain is the swinging instrumental “On the Beam” that lets Jay’s harmonica skills shine
Jay’s voice has the spot on blues attitude to give these tunes authenticity. That carries through to his tough harp skills and his hand-picked crop of first rate musicians from the Twin Cities blues scene If you have a hankering for fresh sounding blues that owes a debt to the masters, you just can’t go wrong here.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta. bluesblastmagazine.com