The Blind Willies band's sentiment that Every Day is Judgment Day is on the philosophical money, but, alarmed by the creepy abstract voodoo demon staring at me from the lurid cover, I myself judged it was time to run away…and with haste. Good thing I didn't, though, because this is a very interesting listen for many reasons, not the least of which are the pointed direct and often barbed political lyrics, a direct extension of the ROI movement as far as I'm concerned but in a far more Americana fashion. When I say that, though, I'm not talking about Hank Snow, Pete Seeger, or even the Band but rather the kind of thing Lou Reed and John Cale might have done had they been minded to get as progressive as was Cale's eternal wont.
Blind Willies is Alexei Wajchman's band. The guy plays guitar, banjo, and harmonica but also has one of those singing voices on the curious side of charismatic, the kind of gent you'd expect to place somewhere between a suave carny barker and seductive theatrical emcee, maybe even the lead character in a Brechtian play or something Nick Cave would contrive. Misha Khalikilov's cello lends gravity to the collection of songs as well as atmosphere, and the keyboards (Max Miller-Loran, who also plays a Pee Wee Ellis style trumpet) come off as though a celeste more than once, stars twinkling above encantations of freedom and danger, exhilaration and cynicism, hope and damnation.
This sort of music is pretty damned rare, and I was reminded very strongly of The Carnivaleros, The Woes, McKendree Spring, Headstone, String Driven Thing, and a handful of offbeat but mentally and viscerally attractive bands blending many modalities. Dig a Hole is quite progressive, kind of like the high side of The Strawbs meeting the Allman Brothers after Duane had downed a tab, and I swear to God I hear touches of Sleepytime Gorila Museum in there with more than little Patti Smith in Wajchman's vocal delivery.
It's kinda too bad the lads opted for the cover they did because Heather Rickard contributed a marvelous woodcut joining Lynd Ward with Peter Kuper with Rick Grashow, a surreal piece carried on the inside liner and gracing the lyrics broadsheet. It far better exemplifies Blind Willies' raison d'être and vibe than the bizarre amateuristic painting by Anonymous (no, not that Anonymous!). Regardless, Judgment Day is well recommended for all its uniquenesses, a combination of mind theater, rock, folk prog, and agitprop paying tribute to elder sounds by wrenching them out of their matrixes 'n tossing 'em on the aesthetic grill. What emerges is both beautiful and daunting, a smiling mystery theater lurching with blind truthtelling and Humanist intent.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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