For those of us who are familiar with Mr Washington, he’s a master of Funk, Blues and occasionally on his albums he provides scintillating soul music, he’s a hard one to pin down and over the years I’ve always felt he was being overlooked, there always seems to be someone new and shiny to take centre stage but never our Walter. I have a number of his albums on the shelves and several 45’s from well back in day, the albums then on Rounder Records ‘Wolf Tracks’ 1986, ‘Out of the Dark’ 1988 and ‘Wolf at the Door’ and ‘Funk is in the House’ from 1991. Mysteriously an album appeared on Pointblank in 1991 titled ‘Sada’, this didn’t appear to be promoted too well at the time as I remember having to search for it, eventually Jimmy at The Diskery in Birmingham found a copy for me.
In 1997 he found himself back in the studio in New Orleans, backed by his band, The Roadmasters, which resulted in a slew of real quality funk and soul tracks and then, well, nothing. If anyone doubts his credentials as a soul man then go grab a listen to “Please Come Back To Me” from the ‘Funk in the House’ album; a subtle horn laden dancer that I have played out with a very healthy reaction, I also sent the track over to Mick O’Donnell for his radio show, he’s played it many times to a very positive reaction. Indeed the ‘Wolf at the Door’ album is a fine soul album with funk undertones, it contains the beautiful balladry of “It Doesn’t Really Matter”, once heard never forgotten. It’s clear that having feet in all camps hasn’t helped his promotion, being unable to pigeon-hole I feel has cost this great man greatly. He could have been a superstar.
So what a fabulous surprise to have him back in the fray with this 10 track set but, right from the outset I have to tell you, the funk has gone, his voice is a deeper rougher tone, there are no dancers on this album, ballads galore, so if like me your into the slower tuneage then fill your boots, you’re in for a monster treat. As usual I’ll go straight to the track that has blown me away – “I Don’t Want To Be A Lone Ranger” which he has turned it into a sparse organ drenched foot tapper, you get the impression the rest of the band are just waiting for the signal to blast through but it never comes, all very restrained, but other than Walter and his guitar that’s your lot, a masterpiece. You know I always try to give you some comparisons, well Ray Charles is all over this, the simply stunning “Even Now” is a haunting opus, again very sparse backdrop which Walter takes full advantage of vocally and lyrically, he’s joined by none other than Irma Thomas, which just puts the icing on a very soulful cake. Elsewhere he’s also joined by Ivan Neville and Jon Cleary. The beautiful “I Just Dropped By To Say Hello” has that infamous Jimmy Cobb feel, in fact I pulled the album and played “So Nobody Else Can Hear”. The album was produced by Ben Ellman of Galactic, and it’s Walter’s first album for Anti- Records. For some of us this is the album we have all been waiting for, waiting for him to slow it down and show his vocal prowess, we’ve always known it’s there, he’s always had it, clues are there for us all to hear on his previous album, well he’s pulled it off brilliantly and at 74 years of age let’s hope it ain’t too long before we hear from him again. Walter, thank-you.
Walter is currently on an extensive tour with still 26 dates across the States.