By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2021
If you are from the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area of “The North Star State” chances are quite good that you’ve heard of Jay Walter Wilkins. Dating back to 1989, on and off, Jay’s been fronting roots blues and blues rock bands for over thirty years now. Fast forwarding past the years of The Blues Kings, gaps of music inactivity and day jobs, Jay – who is now retired from those jobs – is back and he’s ready to to take things to the next level. “Rectification”, his first release under his own name – Jay Walter and The Rectifiers – could very well make that happen.
Along with Jay, on vocals and harmonica, The Rectifiers are: John Franken and Dan Schwalbe on guitars; John Schroder and Chris Johnson on bass; Bruce McCabe on piano and Hammond organ; and Victor Span on drums. “Rectification” contains eleven tracks of which ten are originals and/or collaborations by Jay and Don.
The Rectifiers get their inspiration from fifties style Chicago, Memphis and Gulf Coast blues and to me, that all translates to my kind of blues: Traditional. With that said, “Rectifier Man” – the disc’s opening, will testify to that. It’s a straight up shuffle with John Schroder and Victor Span in a tight rhythm groove; Bruce McCabe bangin’ out smokin’ piano leads from my favorite part of the piano – those high end right hand keys; gutsy blues guitar licks by John Franken; and front man Jay Walter belting out the blues both vocally and with heated harmonica leads. This is the kind of stuff us purists can listen to all night long.
I’m willing to bet that, regardless of the genre, those of us who often attend shows at live music venues know someone like this. Damn, I’ve already mentally put a three piece band together. The song is titled “The Legend” and by no means is it referring to a Buddy Guy, a John Primer, et al. You see, this is a song about that person whose got all the right gear, a vintage Fender amp and guitar too; Ray ban shades and a fedora hat; tattoos, diamonds and a golden earring; but none of this matters ’cause he just can’t play or sing. His clothes are that perfect retro style with Italian shoes direct from China; he’s totally convinced that he’s where it’s at and will be the next big find: he is indeed a legend…..in his own mind. My suggestion, based on what I’m musically hearing here, is that this guy should take guitar lessons from John and Dan and singing lessons from Jay. Fun and cleverly written track.
Flowing with Memphis soul and funk, “Early Saturday Morning” had me dancing in my chair. Containing the usually good rhythm and dynamite dual guitars, this one is highlighted by Jay and Bruce complimenting each other with their outstanding harmonica and Hammond leads, and Jay sounding his disc’s best on vocals. Very good stuff!
I’m not going to mention any names but I seem to think I might know who Jay is referring to on a track titled “Con Man”. This is a rock-a-billy smoker with more strong rhythm from Victor on the drums and this time Chris on bass; scorching leads from the guitar sparring between John and Dan; and fabulous Jerry Lee type piano runs that definitely add to the rock part of rock-a-billy.
Since I’m a huge fan of Jimmy Reed and my favorite harmonica chords are those high end ones he pretty much patented, I love it when harmonica players include a song of his on their releases. Jay not only did that but he nailed this rendition of “Gonna Find My Baby” (J. Reed), as well.
The disc closes with an instrumental slugfest titled “On The Beam”. It’s basically Jay and John going toe to toe for three rounds (minutes) on the harp and guitar. Think Whammer Jammer.
Other tracks on the excellent release include: “Hitchin’ 94”; “Mean Hearted Woman”; “Saw Me See You”; “Lies And Secrets”; and “Sweet Lovely”. Quite frankly, each and every one of them could have easily been highlighted.
If you’re the kind of listener who enjoys hearing good new music from good new artists that you might not ever get to hear unless someone told you about, here is one and you’ve just been told.
To find out more about the Jay Walter and The Rectifiers, to purchase a copy of “Rectification” or to request a copy for airplay, just go to the bands website – www.jaywalter.com – or look for the music on your favorite digital platforms. When you do, please tell Jay that the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Recipient