Blues Bytes


February/March 2017

Raphael Wressnig
The Soul Connection
ZYX Music

Raphael Wressnig

Raphael Wressnig had a tough act to follow with his excellent 2014 release, Soul Gumbo, which was recorded in New Orleans with George Porter, Jr., Walter “Wolfman” Washington, and Galactic drummer Stanton Moore providing stellar support. The Austrian organist extraordinaire is more than up to the task with this awesome follow-up, The Soul Connection (ZYX Music), which teams Wressnig with the Brazilian guitarist Igor Prado, three legendary soul/blues vocalists, Wee Willie Walker, David Hudson, and Leon Beal, a horn section led by Gordon “Sax” Beadle, and the funkiest rhythm section south of the border (Rodrigo Mantovani – bass, Yuri Prado – drums).

The Soul Connection has 13 tracks, six fantastic instrumentals focusing on Wressnig and Prado, and seven classic blues and R&B covers that feature vocals from Walker, Hudson, or Beal. Wressnig had originally contacted Otis Clay to contribute vocals, but the iconic singer sadly passed away before recording began. The group cut the opening track; Clay’s Hi Records hit “Trying To Live My Life Without You,” as a tribute, with Walker ably handling vocals.

Walker also sings several tunes associated with Little Willie John, “Sufferin’ With The Blues, “Home At Last,” “My Love Is,” and “Heartbreak.” These four tunes vary in mood and tempo and show not only Walker’s vocal versatility, but a remarkable interplay between Wressnig, Prado, and the band. Hudson rolls through the Tyrone Davis standard “Turning Point” with ease and Beal gives a strong performance on the Bobby “Blue” Bland favorite “Don’t Cry No More.”

The six instrumentals are great, from “Young Girl,” a non-vocal take on yet another Little Willie John hit which brings to mind those much-missed Memphis instrumental from the Booker T / Mar-Keys era in this rendition (as does the Wressnig original “Turnip Greens”), to the funky “No-La-Fun-Ky” (another Wressnig original), to the jumping jive of Prado’s “The Face Slap Swing No. 5.” Hugh Masekela’s ’60s hit, “Grazing In The Grass” is reinterpreted with Wressnig’s B3 as the lead instrument, and the Wayne

Raney country hit “Why Don’t You Haul Off And Love Me,” recreated in a soulful gospel vein, closes the disc out.

The Soul Connection is a listening pleasure from start to finish. The collaboration between Wressnig and Prado pays big dividends thanks to their sparkling musicianship (along with their savvy backing band) and deserves a spot in any blues or soul music fan’s collection.

--- Graham Clarke



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