Michelle Willson & the
Evil Gal Festival Orchestra,
Wake Up Call
(Rounder/Bullseye, 2001)

Michelle Wilson's got a great voice for the blues, and on Wake Up Call she accents it with jazzy, swing, and rock-influenced blues. It's a solid combination and an excellent album -- possibly her best to date.

I particularly liked the jazzier and swing tracks. "Think About Me" is a standout, with its sultry jazz backdrop to her powerful voice making it a very sexy song indeed. "Mi My Moo" hearkens back to swing's heyday, with its partially nonsense lyrics augmented by a perfect swing backup.

I also like the unique content of some of the songs. "Wake Up Call" is literally about wake-up calls, especially after a late night. Swinging "Water, Water" is fun, and an antidote to the hard-drinking blues song. "Crazy, Crazy" takes on subject matter I'm more accustomed to hearing in country songs, about the insanity of life as an adult and the choices we make, and the late-swing or early rock sound is perfect for it.

I didn't care as much for a couple of the rock 'n' roll songs here. "They Don't Want Me To Rock No More" is pretty silly, though a good homage to early rock where the lyrics aren't the point of the song. "Pleasing You" is a decent song, but pales in comparison to many of the others here. "Set You Free," though, is a good rock song with an early style, and a more ambiguous and assertive take on relationships that one usually hears.

Wake Up Call is a wonderful album. I hope fans of modern swing will give it a chance, as well blues fans. Willson is true to the spirit of the blues, while expanding the sound of roots blues into some exciting new areas. It became an instant favorite in my house, both with me and with my teenaged daughter. Take a listen, and enjoy!

[ by Amanda Fisher ]
Rambles: 5 January 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.