South west based roots rock trio Wille and The Bandits are back in 2019 with new album ‘Paths’, released by Fat Toad Records on February 1st and distributed by Proper. ‘Paths’ was produced by Wille and The Bands and Josiah J Manning at Momentum Studios, recorded and mixed by Josiah J Manning at Momentum Studios and mastered by Lewis Hopkins at Stardelta Mastering.
At the forefront of this new record is of course Wille Edwards’ ever strong, powerful and gritty vocals and his world class, virtuosic guitar playing.
It is hard to pigeonhole exactly what genre to label Wille with and The Bandits with as their music encompasses so many world influences and styles.
This album may have been a while in the making, but it is the studio album the band have always wanted to create and to my mind the bands best body of work to date.
But what makes this album special and a standout compared to the bands other releases I hear you ask? Read on and I shall enlighten you.
Capturing the Live Sound
Wille and The Bandits are well known for their high-octane live shows and the energy of their stage performances has been captured on this record. Close your eyes and turn up the volume and you’ll be transported to a live show leaving you with shivers. This album has everything a WATBs fan could ask for. Hard rocking fuzzy guitars, searing blues solos, thunderous drumming, haunting Middle-Eastern sounds, Funk, Rock, R&B, and pop influences adorn this record.
The songs on ‘Paths’ really showcase the bands musical dexterity and intelligence with a vast array of instruments used. Everything from traditional acoustic, electric, lap steel and resonator guitars, through Drums, Djembes, Congas, Wood and Steel Tongue Drums, Udu, Shakers, Jews Harp, Six String Electric Bass, Five String Double Bass and Cello are used.
First impressions of the album are of a much more polished and mature sound compared to previous releases whilst not overproducing the album, keeping that raw and gritty sound we all know and love.
What impresses me with this album is the bands use of different time signatures, tempos and middle eight breaks to create a wide dynamic range to their songs. This approach leaves the listener with a sense of wondering as to where the song will lead you next, what surprises and delights are in store for your ears.
‘Find My Way’ is the first single to be released from ‘Paths’ and is available as a free ‘grat track’ when pre-ordering the album.
1. One Way
The album begins with an absolute banger of an opening track heavily featuring Wille’s bottleneck slide guitar and thunderous drums form Andy. The song is very political and questions the way of the world and names various leaders and historic figures who have stood for peace as the “One Way”. Politics aside, ‘One Way’ is a ferocious wall of sound that introduces the listener to the album nicely
2. Make Love
This funky song is underpinned by a bouncy groove on the drums and a unison lick by the guitar and bass. The guitars were recorded using 1950’s valve amps and the vocals through a vintage tape machine giving that real retro feel. The song is a hark back to the flower power days and lyrically questions the “eye for and eye” notion of making War not Love.
3. Victim of the Night
The song is about someone who is struggling through life and his issues and finds solace in the toxicity of the nightlife. The outro features guest vocals from another southwest singer-songwriter favourite Alex Hart and soars into epic Blues Rock Banditry with wailing guitars and swirling Hammond organ.
4. Four Million Days
This is a stunning, haunting ballad about someone who is looking for their parents. It starts with a lonely gentle Cello played by Matt, accompanied by Wille’s delicate finger picked acoustic guitar. The song then builds into a huge chorus which shows the power in Wille’s vocals and songwriting skills of this trio with the melody circling in your head for days. The song also features an almost ‘Floydesque’ psychedelic soundscape with Wille’s signature lap slide solo weaving in and out of the strings perfectly arranged by Matthew Brooks. The sound is reminiscent of David Gilmore’s slide guitar playing on tracks such as high hopes and Comfortably Numb.
A song about how the World’s natural environment is so important to our development as human beings and if we don’t act soon we may lose our precious planet. The song demonstrates Andy’s skills on percussion with his use of the Hang Drum and Djembe, giving the track a world music vibe and enhancing the natural element of the song. Wille uses electric Weissenborn for the whole track in a custom tuning with Matt accompanying with his 6 string Bass
6. Keep it on the Down-low
This song showcases how the band can really groove and brings in more modern elements of hip hop and rap in the vocal style. It features heavy percussive elements, and also has an almost Derek Trucks style bottleneck solo and some serious funk Bass playing from Matt
7. Judgement Day
Inspired by the TV series “The Wire” where some of the characters come from a religious background and don’t have a choice but to become involved in the street life. They feel that they will be judged on Judgement Day. The song was again recorded using vintage equipment and has a Nick Cave and Tom Waits Vibe.
8. How Long
This song was inspired by one of Wille’s favourite singers Chris Cornell who took his own life, and the vocal and song is a tribute to him. “I felt very emotional about Chris Cornell’s passing and while sat on my beach in Cornwall I wrote this song which talks about depression and how long it takes to overcome this horrible condition.
9. Find My Way
Talks about trying to find a way in a world which feels like it is designed to profit the rich. It features Willes vocals run through a 1970’s space echo and super fuzzed out guitar through 1953 valve amplifier. The middle eight features Matt’s 6 string bass playing alongside Wille playing a dobro through a space echo. The use of Indian scales on the dobro and Andy playing various types of drums, including the Udu and Djembe’s gives an almost tribal eastern sound.
10 Watch You Grow
This was written when Wille first became a father and the verses consider the experiential and existential changes in becoming a parent. The chorus talks about watching his daughters grow up and what a beautiful thing it is. The instrumentation is deeply interesting with Wille using a Weissenborn guitar and flirting with Indian sensibilities in the verses and Andy playing an African tonal percussion instrument called a Tongue drum the track is all held together and driven by a looping hypnotic bass line which gets your toes tapping.
Hanging with a theme in this album, this track considers how government have failed us in protecting our planet and have made profit more important than future generations and should be held accountable. The song has an almost retro feel featuring again Wille’s lap slide skills which soar into a huge almost Lynyrd Skynyrd style solo in front of Matt and Andy’s solid foundations.
‘Paths’ is a breath of fresh air! ‘Paths’ breathes a new modern lease of life into bygone genres using vintage equipment to create retro sounds whilst still being relevant to the modern listener. 2019 may have only just begun but I can safely say that this offering from one of the country’s most exciting live acts has already been firmly cemented into my top albums of the year and I thusly award this album a richly deserved and rare 5 stars.
Wille and The Bandits are
Electric and Acoustic Guitars
Electric Lap Steel
Six String Electric Bass
Five String Double Bass
Cello, String Arrangements
Drums, Djembes, Congas
Wood and Steel Tongue Drums
Udu, Shakers, Jews Harp