Mike Wheeler Band ‘Turn Up!!’ (Delmark) 4/5

mike-wheeler-bandIf the soul-blues sounds of Little Milton and Robert Cray are to your liking, then lead vocalist and guitarist Mike Wheeler provides a modern twist on the soulful blues groove. A veteran of the Chicago blues scene from the mid-1980s onwards, Wheeler founded the band in 2001 and made his debut CD in 2003. A previous release on Delmark from 2012, ‘Self made man’, set the scene and this new recording with a two horn section has a slightly rougher edge than the Cray sound, but is just as compelling. A tribute to Little Milton comes in the shape of a new reading of, ‘That;s what love will make you do’, and there is a beautiful soulful ballad, ‘Nothing lasts forever’. However, with time and experience, the tight sounding band has developed its rhythm section and this is on fire on the stomping beat of the opener, ‘Sweet girl’. Some critics have remarked that the guitar phrasing recalls Vernon Reid and it is certainly true that Wheeler has soaked up myriad musical influences that range from blues and R&B to funk and even disco. The good news is that with regular live performances throughout the city of Chicago Wheeler and the band have created their own sound, and their diversity of influences even takes in New Orleans, as on the drum beat to, ‘I can’t do that’. A fine new release on Delmark and one that demonstrates beyond doubt that the blues is still rocking in the windy city for sure.

Tim Stenhouse