StratCat Willie & The Strays
On A Hot Tin Roof
Eight Days A Week Records
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © July 2022
I ended my review of StratCat Willie’s first release, On The Prowl – which was fifty years in the making – by letting him know that if it was going to be another fifty years till his next release that I wouldn’t be able to review it. Thankfully he did not procrastinate, and here I am just twenty-two months later offering my input on his second release – On A Hot Tin Roof.
Like that first release, all of this one’s thirteen tracks are original music and with the exception of a few extra guests, the six-piece nucleus of the band is the same as well. Once again joining StratCat Willie Hayes on guitars and vocals are: Neil Massa on keyboards; John Wisor and Vinnie Burvee on bass; and Dave Fiorini and Dave Salce on drums. The guests include: Rich Graiko on trumpet; Josh Cohen on sax; Jeremy Hummel on percussion; with Mabel Welch and Sing Trece on backing vocals.
The story behind the opening track is that when Willie wrote it back in the summer of 2021, it was meant to be a bust out of quarantine song, and that by the time it was released, it’s story line would no longer be relevant… and yet, some of it still is. As a matter of fact, as I sit here telling you about the song, I’m currently recovering from my latest bout. However, we must all stay optimistic and there’s no better way to do that then to “Have A Blues Party”… one like the band themselves are having. The track’s very confident vibe features smoking guitar leads, dance inducing rhythm, howling horns, and fabulously frolicking lead and background vocals. Oh yeah, there’s indeed a party going on.
Literally speaking, I’ve never actually been on a “Hot Tin Roof” but I do understand the angst that could be associated with it, and somehow feel like this track musically defines exactly what it would feel like. Now I’m not saying the band is in the middle of an anxiety attack but if there were ever accompanying music for one, this just might be it. With Vinnie and Dave S. laying down such a frantic rhythm pace, just when you think Willie might not be able to keep up with them, he puts his Strat into high gear and all hell breaks loose. Yep, that’s why they call him StratCat. Should there still be a need to say this one’s a smoker, it’s a Smoker with a capital S.
Hey StratCat, let’s just agree to disagree – It’s my belief that there is no such thing as a woman who is “Way Too Fast”. This dance floor filler tells the tale of a poor ol’ country boy running into a woman that was just too much for him to handle… and yet, I get the impression he enjoyed every bit of it. With its swinging rhythm, led by some strong walking bass lines by John, and jumping trumpet leads by Rich, there’s no way it’ll be way too fast for the dancers.
The opening of this track sounded so familiar that I found myself about to start singing…”I can remember the Fourth of July”… but then I realized these were all originals and it couldn’t be a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover. It’s another rhythm driven track titled “Redneck Woman” and like the last track, it tells another tale of a woman who’s just too tough to tame. StratCat sure knows how to attract them. He sure knows how to play that guitar as well, and some of his best slide and note bending can be heard right here.
While I’m on that train of thought, this is the perfect time to tell you about “Cryin'”. With John, Dave F. and Neal in the perfect slow blues groove on the bass, drum and keyboards, StratCat takes this one and runs with it. His emotional and soulful deliverance of the song’s sullen lyrics are one of his best vocal presentations and the same holds true for his killer slow blues guitar licks. Yeah, you all know it’s coming… this is certainly one of the disc’s best songs.
With its pop vibe, fun lyrics, good beat and being easy to dance to, if this were 1952, the kids on American Bandstand would be all over this one. It’s called “My One True Love” and it features Willie, with fabulous harmony and backup support from Mabel and Sing, singing about how much he misses his one true love in Memphis; his other one true love in Nashville; and his other one true loves in Chicago, Austin and Phoenix. Great piano and horn leads by Neal Rich and Josh.
Although they are similar, Mezcal and Tequila are two different liquors. Likewise, although they are also similar, “Mezcal” – the title of this song, is different than “Tequila” – the title of that other song. Additionally, whereas “Tequila” was not a true instrumental because it did have a lyric, “Mezcal” is indeed a true instrumental. Aren’t you glad I cleared all that up? Of course you are. As if using two different powerhouse rhythm sections on alternating tracks wasn’t enough, Willie decided this would be a good place to throw in some extra added percussion. Enter Jeremy and wow – the result was masterful.
Other tracks on this very lively and very entertaining release include: “Let’s Dance”; “In The End”; “Guilty”; “Together”; and “Runnin’ With The Strays”.
To find out more about StratCat Willie just go to his website – www.stratcatwillie.com. Once you do all that, please tell Willie that the Blewzzman sent you. BTW, also let him know that if he continues to put a release out every two years, I’m in for the next few reviews.
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
The Blues Is My Passion And Therapy
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 “Keeping The Blues Alive” Award Recipient