wildroots sessions volume 1
(5 star review)
Victor Wainwright and Stephen Dees celebrate their 16 year musical partnership with one hell of an album. Following 2015’s critically acclaimed and award winning Boom Town, Sessions is a smooth, sweet, soulful blend of blues, soul and roots rock & roll. If, by chance you’re feeling down, you won’t be after this record is done with you.
In a recent reply on Facebook to a friend (a fellow drummer) from my school days about how “being a musician means being a part of a total experience” I said “it’s the communion between people working toward a common goal that makes playing so exhilarating”, and I’d bet the farm that the players on this disc feel that way too. For this kick at the cat Victor and Stephen felt it was time to spotlight some of the talented people who have been a part of their past and present collaborations, and the results are stunning. In addition to Wainwright, Sessions Vol.1 also includes a number of special guests plus lead vocals by John Oates, Beth McKee, Nick Black, Stephen Dees, Patricia Ann Dees, Anthony “Packrat” Thompson, Robert “Top” Thomas, Billy Livesay, Mark Hodgson and Chris Merrell.
Wildroots Sessions Volume 1 is a rollicking, swingin’ musical adventure that takes you back home, wherever that may be for you, and it makes you feel cool while you listen. The disc was produced by Stephen Dees with just the right depth and interplay between voices and instruments, what feels like a natural and unforced relationship.. There are 16 songs in all, including covers of 634-5789 and Santa Claus Is Back In Town. The mixture of styles within the blues/soul/roots idiom is really something. Wildroots even touch on gospel with Cradled In The Bosom of Jerusalem. Sometimes when you hear a new album you think “Jeez, this is pretty good” and then you move on to the next thing- an occupational hazard for someone who reviews albums. But every now and again a pile of songs will come along that just stops me in my tracks, and that’s what The Wildroots Sessions Vol.1 is for me. It’s one of those discs that can really lift the darkness.
KEY CUTS: Easy Chair, 634-5789, Cradled In The Bosom Of Jerusalem
- Music Reviews by the ROCK DOCTOR – Feb 17th, 2021
- By John Kereiff Features - Music Reviews & Get Off My Lawn!
A pair of white boys with the blues decide to celebrate 15 years of striking sparks by rounding up a whole gaggle of cats that influenced and informed them and making a real party out of it. With a guest list that's mind boggling, you couldn't get a better set if Paul Shaffer rounded up his SNL/Letterman pals and enlisted them to have a party. This set makes every hour after hours and the party never ends. Simply smoking.
- Chris Spector
Concert Monkey Review Jan 2021
WildRoots Records was founded in 2005 by Stephen Dees, Victor Wainwright and Patricia Ann Dees. The label focuses mainly on blues, roots, folk and Americana artists and is committed to creating music that is both diverse and soulful. The first album to be released on WildRoots Records was 'Piana From Savannah' by Victor Wainwright. In 2009 The WildRoots released their debut album 'Beale Street to the Bayou'. Two years later, the follow-up was 'Lit Up!’ In 2015 they teamed up with Blind Pig Records for the album 'Boom Town', which is also their most successful album to date. Now sixteen years after the founding of WildRoots Records, 'WildRoots Sessions Volume 1' is released, a collection of sixteen songs that go from blues, roots and rhythm & blues to soul. It ranges from cheerful romp on the piano to back porch blues and blues rock and roll. There is something for everyone on 'WildRoots Sessions Volume 1'.
The album opens with the sweet, soulful duet '634-5789', sung by Victor Wainwright and Patricia Ann Dees. The elderly among us certainly know this song, because in the mid-sixties Wilson Pickett already scored a hit with this great song. Stephen Dees wrote the swampy gospel song 'Something In The Water'. Drummer Alberto Cruz starts the song with a tight drum intro. The soulful voice of Billy Livesay is extremely well suited for this 'Something In The Water'. The same can be said about the soulful voices of Beth McKee and Patricia Ann Dees, who have a great input with their excellent backing vocals. Stephen Kampa is also in the spotlight here with his gritty harmonica playing. Patricia Ann Dees is a great singer we hear again in the soulful 'Move Along Pt.1'. Greg Gumpel lashes out with a great guitar solo and percussionist Robert Caban provides the instrumental finishing. The soulful ballad 'Our Last Goodbye' has a mighty beginning thanks to Charlie DeChant's fantastic saxophone. John Oates sings this emotional ballad with a lot of feeling and Chris Stephenson carries the melody with his warm Hammond sounds. The Christmas period is apparently not over for Victor Wainwright, because he sings with a growling voice 'Santa Claus Is Back In Town'. You can hear that he still has good and fast fingers in the piano solo and Charlie DeChant also blows a great solo from his tenor saxophone.
The quiet vintage 'Easy Chair' is a jazzy song, with the wonderful voice of Patricia Ann Dees. Instrumentally it is the excellent harmonica player Stephen Kampa who draws all the attention. The poppy 'Memphis Queen' takes us back to the fifties and sixties of the last century. Nick Black sings the song and the slide solo on the guitar comes from Nick Black. The only song Stephen Dees sings is 'Square'. His wife Patricia Ann Dees is excellent throughout the song and explicitly present on the flute. She crowns her instrumental performance with a very good solo. Also mention that Doug Bare makes a wonderful contribution to the Hammond and that the drums and the bongos are by Mark Roffe. The gospel song 'Cradled In The Bosom Of Jerusalem' is a duet between Beth McKee and Victor Wainwright. Of course, a choir with soulful voices should not be missing here. The beautiful acoustic slide guitar work comes from Pat Harrington and harmonica player Stephen Kampa is also in the spotlight again.
Kampa does that again in 'King Snake Crawl Revisited'. Robert 'Top' Thomas wrote this acoustic Delta blues song together with Stephen Dees. Robert sings the song and the acoustic slide work on the dobro is also his. 'Move Along Pt.2' is a very short instrumental track lasting less than two minutes. Drummer Billy Dean and bassist Stephen Dees provide the infectious exotic groove, on which keyboardist Gerard Guida, percussionist Robert Caban and saxophonist Charlie DeChant can fully indulge themselves to showcase their instrumental class.
‘Misty Morning In New Orleans’ was written by Stephen Dees and Pat Travers. Pat recorded the song for the 1990 album 'School Of Hard Knocks'. The WildRoots version remains very close to the original Travers version. Mark Hodgson has a powerful rock voice and he sings the song with great conviction. The beautiful guitar work comes from Steve Shanholtzer. With Anthony 'Packrat' Thompson we get a different voice in the swinging 'Where I Am'. A wonderful Victor Wainwright on piano, a fantastic Ray Guiser on tenor sax and excellent Billy Dean on drums provide the instrumental enjoyment. The nearly six-minute melodic ballad 'In A Sad Room', written by Stephen Dees and Bryant Bassett, is one of the highlights of the album. It is sung with great feeling by the beautiful voice of Chris Merrell. Lucky Peterson carries the melody of this emotional ballad with his warm Hammond sounds and he also provides a beautiful outro on the Hammond. Bryan Bassett, who helped write the song, comes out with a very soulful guitar solo. The sober and modest 'Bend In The Road' lasts less than a hundred seconds, but still singer Patricia Ann Dees and harmonica player Stephen Kampa know how to touch you in that short time. Stephen Dees accompanies Patricia Ann and Kampa on the acoustic guitar. The album ends with 'I'm Yours', which is the longest track on the album with over eight minutes. Dees and Wainwright wrote it and Victor knows how to sing this love song with so much emotion and passion that it makes you very quiet. His piano playing is also of excellent quality, as is the mighty work of Charlie DeChant on the saxophone. WildRoots Sessions Volume 1 by The WildRoots is an excellent and very varied album. It is an album with which the band can reach a very wide audience. 'WildRoots Sessions Volume 1' is good for more than one hour of listening pleasure.
Concert Monkey (Translation from Dutch)
Rhythm & Booze
The Wildroots, are a partnership of musicians, led by Victor Wainwright Jr. and Stephen Dees, who have now collaborated together since 2005, creating the landmark album Boom Town back in 2015. They’re back together, along with 10 other core band members, to bring us a 16 track monster Session, labelled Vol. 1! Joining this considerable gathering of vocalists, guitarists, percussionists and brassed up folk, are a further 7 guest musicians, all of which, prevents me listing all those involved.
Victor himself is lead piano, organ player and vocalist, Stephen adds guitar, bass, and percussion, as well as vocals. He is also responsible for writing or collaborating on 14 of these songs, plus engineering, alongside his wife Patricia Anne Dees, who is also, a core band member.
I’ll tuck the 2 cover tracks out of the way first, ‘634-5789’, a Floyd/Cropper R&B song, recorded by Wilson Picket back in ‘66, opens the album, with Victor and Patricia sharing vocals. Leiber & Stoller, wrote, ‘Santa Claus Is Back In Town’, which is a cracking groove by any measure. The music is truly a selection box of tasty goodies that will have you diving in to scoff the lot.
R&B is predominate, with polished brass, and a ‘Big Easy’ vibe, like the excellent ‘Memphis Queen’, featuring slide guitarist Nick Black on vocals, with Stax like horns breezing in. Anthony ‘Packrat’ Thompson, adds gritty verbal’s to the horn flecked rhythm of, ‘Where I Am’, a lovely groove, with great choral support and Victor hammering the ivories.
You’ll also be converted by the gospel according to Billy Livesay, who finds there must be, ‘Something In The Water’, full of spirited harp from Stephen Kampa, guitar, drum and bass. Let the spirit guide you to being, ‘Cradled In The Bosom Of Jerusalem’, superbly preached by the wonderful Beth McKee, who shares vocals with Wainwright, it’s contagious, you will be converted.
The deep Blues flag is flown proudly in, ‘King Snake Crawl Revisited’, with Robert Thomas on vocals, and Kampa on harp. A much more and soulful blues, adds gorgeous tenor sax from Charlie DeChant, to John Oates voice, in, ‘Our Last Goodbye’. DeChant also features on the tear jerking, soulful blues of the closing track, with Victor Wainwright on piano and impassioned vocals, in, ‘I’m Yours’.
Proving this album covers an enviable width of genre influenced grooves, there’s also the cool licks of blues jazz, Patricia Dees, calls in the, ‘Move Along Part 1’, its beautiful stuff, the instrumental chill out of ‘Part 2’ slots in later. Also notable by its period feel of jazz edged, soul filled blues, maybe reflective of the 30’s or 40’s, ‘Easy Chair’, is cozily settled by Patricia Dees, with Kampa on harp, over the wallpaper of brushed drums, and rhythm guitar, put your feet up and enjoy as Patricia encourages a little chairobics.
It’s all but impossible to not to find more than enough wonderful content to satisfy temptation, and add this to your musical accompaniment to this currently difficult life we inhabit, take some time out and enjoy the Wildroots Sessions Vol. 1, Stephen Dees, as principle songwriter, and producer seems to have an abundance of talents, and has drawn around him some exceptional musicians and vocalists.
- Rhythm & Booze (Britain) Graham Munn
Blues Blast Magazine
This album requires a bit of historical background to fully understand. Victor Wainwright and Stephen Dees began their musical partnership back in 2005, when Dees co-wrote and produced Wainwright’s debut solo release Piana’ From Savannah. They then formed the WildRoots band, fronted by Wainwright. Next, they released several albums, including the 2015 release, Boom Town, which won Blues Blast Magazine’s award for Contemporary Blues Album of the Year, and led to Wainwright winning BB King Entertainer of the Year, and Wainwright & the WildRoots being named Band of the Year at the Blues Music Awards. Wainwright and Dees have since started their own record label, similarly named WildRoots Records.
You might think you know what to expect on this album because you’ve seen Victor Wainwright and the WildRoots perform in the past. But the first thing you will notice about this album is that there is quite a bit going on. In addition to Wainwright, Dees, and Patricia Ann Dees (considered the “core” members of the band), eight WildRoots alumni play on the album, eight additional lead vocalists are spotlighted, and seven guest musicians are also featured, including Pat Harrington (from Wainwright’s band, The Train), Lucky Peterson and Michael Shrieve. There is also a variety of song styles, including soul, blues, gospel, and roots Rock ‘n’ Roll. The second thing you will likely notice about this album is the excellent sound mix, with each song consistently sounding clear and crisp, even when played on low-budget laptop speakers.
The album begins with Wainwright and Patricia Ann Dees singing a duet version of the song that Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper wrote for Wilson Pickett, “634-5789”. Even in this light and catchy cover song, the stunning tone and interesting character of Wainwright’s voice is evident. Aside from this and one other cover song, the remaining 14 tracks were written or co-written by Dees, who seems equally comfortable penning songs in any genre. Not surprisingly, the recent political climate appears to have inspired two powerfully written songs for this album. Guest singer Billy Livesay delivers Dees’ song “Something in the Water,” noting “A man’s going crazy up on the hill…tainted news, toxic lies. When right is wrong and wrong is right…must be something in the water.” Additionally, Dees and Wainwright collaborated to write “Where I am,” in which their plea for unity states, “I know what I believe and I’m here to say, hate and evil get out of my way…I’ll respect your views, you respect mine. Treat each other with kindness. Let everybody shine.” This latter message is delivered by the wonderfully gravelly voice of Anthony “Packrat” Thompson.
Guest artist, John Oates (formerly of Hall and Oates fame), has turned his focus lately to the blues, and his voice sounds better than ever on the slow blues song, “Our Last Goodbye”. This song also features one of the many perfectly placed saxophone solos on this album, performed by three different sax players, Ray Guiser, Charlie DeChant and Patricia Ann Dees.
With such a wide variety of collaborations among so many amazing musicians, it is difficult to focus on only a few tracks for the limited space of a record review, as that will ultimately lead to many notable performances appearing to have been overlooked. But, if I had to pick favorites from this outstanding collection, I would pick the stirring and beautiful gospel duet written by Dees and performed by Wainwright and Beth McKee, “Cradled in the Bosom of Jerusalem,” and the Dees/Wainwright song performed by Wainwright, “I’m Yours,” which ends the album. Ever since hearing Wainwright perform “Same Old Blues,” I have been hoping he would write an original song in a similar style which highlights the power, texture, and range of his voice. I believe “I’m Yours” is just such a song and will be the new song that fans will soon be requesting at his shows. With such an impressive collection of talent, it is not surprising that there are few, if any flaws to be detected.
In summary, this album celebrates a long history of collaborations among numerous remarkable musicians. With excellent songwriting, stellar performances, and wide-ranging styles, it is an album easily recommended for everyone. It is likely to leave us all eagerly anticipating the release of Volume Two.
- Blues Blast Magazine
Anita Schlank lives in Virginia, and is on the Board of Directors for the River City Blues Society. She has been a fan of the blues since the 1980s. She and Tab Benoit co-authored the book "Blues Therapy," with all proceeds from sales going to the HART Fund.
WildRoots Bluesman Victor Wainwright first came to fame with the bands Wild Roots and Southern Hospitality, and has gone on to forge an acclaimed path with The Train. Wainwright still plays with his buddies in WildRoots, and this time out gives most of the spotlight to his partner of 16 years, Stephen Dees. Dees (bass and guitar), his multi-instrumentalist and vocalist wife Patricia Ann Dees and Wainwright are the core three in WildRoots. Stephen Dees produced the album, and both he and his wife engineered and arranged it. To say they get lots of help is a vast understatement. The credits here are ridiculous—29 guest musicians in all—comprising both WildRoots alumni and a host of others with gleaming resumes.
Stephen Dees wrote or co-wrote an impressive 14 of these 16 selections, with one cover of Eddie Floyd and one from Leiber & Stoller to round out the mix of blues, soul, and R&B – Memphis style. Dees’ writing is based in typical blues structures and chord progressions we’ve heard a million times, but they are vehicles that provide showcases for the multitudes assembled here. This will get way too tedious if we attempt to list the many players or even the featured artists on each track, as this is a comprehensive, democratic effort to involve all, with many appearing on just one track. Nevertheless, notable guests include Michael Shrieve (Santana), the late Lucky Peterson and John Oates.
Beginning with Floyd’s “634-5789” we hear the soulful vocals of Patricia Ann Dees paired with Wainwright. She sings again on “Move Along Part 1,” “Easy Chair” and “Bend in the Road.” Wainwright sings on three others, a gritty take on Leiber & Stoller’s “Santa Claus Is Back in Town,” with Beth McKee on the gospel-infused “Cradled in the Bosom of Jerusalem,” and former WildRoots saxophonist Charlie DeChant on the closing “I’m Yours,” the album’s best track (saving the best for last).
Standout tracks include the impassioned vocal from Oates and soulful tenor solo from DeChant on “Our Last Goodbye,” the stripped-down “Easy Chair” with a sensuous vocal from Patricia Ann supported by Stephen Kampa’s harmonica, the old-time swing of “Memphis Queen” featuring Nick Black on vocals and slide guitar, and the ebullient, nostalgic “Misty Morning in New Orleans” with Mark Hodgson on vocals and harmonica.
This is a sumptuous feast where just about every dish is inviting for those who like the throwback sound and seek a variety of styles.
- Jim Hynes 2021 Elmore Magazine
They began to pool their efforts as part of a musical collaboration in 2005, their last release “Boom Town” was unanimously acclaimed by critics and brought them a nice harvest of awards. Enough to make them want to continue the adventure of the WildRoots in the company of Patricia Ann Dees but also Billy Dean and Alberto Cruz on drums, Charlie DeChant and Ray Guiser on tenor sax, Nick Black on Guitar and Stephen Kampa on harmonica, but also whole range of guests including Mark Hodgson, Todd Sharp, Bryan Bassett and, last but not least, Lucky Peterson. In no less than fourteen titles written or co-written by Stephen Dees to which are added the famous “634-5789” by Wilson Pickett and the no less famous “Santa Claus is Back In Town” by Elvis Presley.
The WildRoots invite us this time to a great overview of American music with a large part of blues and rock’n’roll of course, but also with soul and roots music as we like them. The album is a very nice testimony of what encounters and exchanges between musicians able to produce better with superb songs like “Something In The Water 2020” sung by Billy Livesay, like the duo of Victor Wainwright and Beth McKee on “Cradled In The Bosom Of Jerusalem”, as “Misty Morning In New Orleans” sung by Mark Hodgson or as “In A Sad Room “sung by Chris Merrell and supported by Lucky Petersons Hammond organ.
Beautiful play, a feeling of every moment and of course musicians who are obviously happy to take part in this ambitious project. It doesn’t take more for this first volume of “WildRoots Sessions” to appeal many others for years to come, with it hoped even more success and recognition for those who make the effort to share such beautiful moments with the public.
- Fred Delforge/ Zicazine (Translated from French)
Historias del Blues Review
The pianist Victor Wainwright and the bassist Stephen Dees began to work together in 2005 first creating the WildRoots label and, later, with the production of the first albums of the pianist who formed his band with the same name of the record company.
"WildRoots Sessions Volume 1" is the return of the main core of WildRoots , which also includes singer Patricia Ann Dees , after the album "Boom Town" , with which Victor Wainwright won the Blues Blast Music Award for Best Album of 2015.
To celebrate 16 years of work, Wainwright and Dees have brought together 29 musicians to present this album that has 16 songs -14 written by Dees- with an orientation towards blues, soul and rock'n'roll, which have been the loud sounds of WildRoots.
Among the invited musicians are the singer John Oates (Hall & Oates) who at this point in his career has leaned towards the blues, the late Lucky Peterson , the guitarist Robert "Top" Thomas and the drummer Michael Shrieve , remembered for the mythical solo in the song "Soul sacrifice", when he was with Santana at Woodstock.
This first album of the WildRoots sessions is very entertaining, with a variety of styles that help the listener to follow it very carefully. All the songs have their particular point of interest, they are very well worked and with a sound that allows to appreciate the qualities of each instrument in any speaker.
Definitely Wainwright, Dees and his wife know the roots of their music very well, they move wildly to attack their listeners with compassion, allowing them to enjoy a very well organized celebration.
RECOMMENDED SONGS: Something in the water 2020, Move along (1 and 2), Memphis Queen, Square, King Snake Crawl Revisited.
- Historias del Blues (Translated from Spanish)
La Hora del Blues
(4 stars - Great)
Making a Scene
Victor Wainwright was born in Savannah. He attended college in Daytona and moved to Memphis where he was employed during the day as an Air Traffic Controller at Memphis International Airport. At night Wainwright honed his piano skills in the clubs along Beale Street. He met bassist Stephen Dees in 2004. Wainwright released his first recording “Piana from Savannah”, on the Wildroots imprint, in 2005. It was produced by Dees who also became his writing partner. In 2009 Victor Wainwright & The Wildroots released “Beale Street to the Bayou”; and followed up with 2011’s “Lit Up!” which garnered Wainwright his first Blues Music Award nomination. The Wildroots followed-up with their best album, “Boom Town”, in 2015. Overall Wainwright has seven BMA’s winning five times for “Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year”; and winning for both “Entertainer of the Year”, and “Band of the Year” in 2016.
These never before released tracks include the “core” band of Wainwright, piano, organ and lead vocals; Stephen Dees, bass, guitars, lead and background vocals; Patricia Ann Dees, lead and background vocals, sax and flute; Charlie DeChant, saxophones; Stephen Kampa, harmonica; and Billy Dean, drums. At times the Wildroots also included vocalist Nick Black; saxophonist Ray Guiser; and drummer Alberto Cruz. These were laid back sessions as twenty-three additional guests are also featured including seven more vocalists.
The album opens with the Eddie Floyd/Steve Cropper written “634-5789”, a #1 single for Wilson Pickett in 1966; it is performed here as a duet between Wainwright and Patricia. This album is dedicated to the memory of Eddie Zyne who plays drums on the track. The only other cover is the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller written “Santa Claus is Back in Town” first recorded by Elvis Presley in 1965, with Wainwright taking the lead vocal.
Fourteen more songs are originals written or co-written by Stephen Dees. Patricia sings lead on three additional tracks including “Move Along Part 1”. Billy Livesay sings on “Something in the Water 2020”. Additional highlights include John Oates singing and playing rhythm guitar on “Our Last Goodbye”; vocalist Black stepping upfront on “Memphis Queen”, and Stephen Dees taking his turn on “Square”. Robert “Top” Thomas sings and plays guitar on “King Snake Crawl Revisited”.
The album documents these thoroughly enjoyable, fine and friendly sessions. Hopefully there are many more good times ahead.
- Richard Ludmerer
Bman's Blues Report
I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, WildRoots Sessions Volume 1, from The WildRoots and it’s really cool. Opening with Eddie Floyd's classic, 634-5789, Stephen Dees on bass, Victor Wainwright on piano and lead vocal and Patricia Ann Dees on lead vocal and sax, joined by John Oates on rhythm guitar, Eddie Zyne on drums, Todd Sharp on lead guitar, David Kent on piano, and Beth McKee on backing vocal this is a soulful opener. Move Along Part 1 is a super jam with tight percussion and horns. With Patricia on lead vocal, Greg Gumpel on guitar, Gerard Guida on Hammond Robert Caban on percussion, and Billy Dean on drums this is a hot track. Charlie DeChant lays in a really nice tenor sax solo soulful ballad, Our Last Goodbye featuring John Oates on lead vocal. Very nice. Venturing into spiritual music, Cradled In The Bosom of Jerusalem, has deep gospel styling with rich vocal work by Wainwright, Particia, Beth McKee, drums by Alberto Cruz and acoustic slide by Pat Harrington. Robert "Top" Thomas has the mic on King Snake Crawl Revisited adding guitar and backed by Stephen Kampa on harmonica. Funky, Move Along Part 2, features DeChant on lead sax, with Guida on organ, Gumpel on guitar and Dean on drums. In A Sad Room is my choice for top radio track with a catchy melody and smooth vocal lead by Chris Merrell. Bryan Bassett on lead guitar, Scott Corwin on drums, Top Thomas on guitar and Lucky Peterson on Hammond round out the mix. Wrapping the release is another soulful ballad, I'm Yours, featuring Wainwright on lead vocal and piano. Charlie DeChant shines balances nicely on sax making this a solid track to close.