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Dave Weld & the Imperial Flames - Nightwalk

Release date: June 3, 2022

Delmark Records
By Steve Jones

Dave Weld & Monica Myhre/ Photo: by Jennifer Noble

Ever since I heard Dave Weld live playing “Mary Who” a few years ago, I knew this would become the cornerstone for his next album. We joked how it was so dark it was and maybe not being something folks would accept, but both of us knew he was on to something. Fast forward and here we are with his new, hit album on Delmark Records with “Mary Who” as the leadoff hook song and with an extended version closing the album out. And it’s still a great song!

So let’s take a few steps back. Dave Weld grew up listening to old blues 78 rpm records but in high school jammed on all the stuff people of his age listened to: Clapton, the Stones, Mayall and more. As his bio states, he traded those records in for Howling Wolf, B.B. King, Lightning Hopkins and the many great blues guitar players. He moved to New Mexico after high school and even jammed with Gatemouth Brown in Nevada. After hearing Hound Dog Taylor’s first Alligator Records release and Howling Wolf on the radio, he was moved to return to his sweet home, Chicago.

From there, Dave began playing with Hound Dog Taylor, Eddie Shaw (sax player for Howlin’ Wolf) and all the Chicago greats. He met J.B. Hutto in 1976 and they became lifelong friends. He studied with Hutto for three years and then met his nephews, Little Ed and James “Pookie” Young. They started Little Ed and the Blues Imperials to great accolades, and later Weld went out on his own with The Imperial Flames. For the last 44 years, the Imperial Flames have graced every blues stage in Chicago along with hundreds of others across our nation and the globe. Weld retains that primal, visceral and driving guitar sound for new generations of music fans to marvel at. He is an iconic force in the world of blues guitar.

Weld and Monica Myhre share the lead vocals, and Jeff Taylor also takes the helm for one cut. Weld handles all the guitar work, Jeff Taylor takes care of the drums and Kenny Pickens plays the bass. Harry Yaseem is the primary piano man and Graham Guest adds B-3 and then piano to one cut. Nashville’s Tom Hambridge (who’s won several Grammys for his work with Buddy Guy and Kingfish) did an amazing job producing this album and plays drums on one song. Tony Carpenter adds percussion to a couple of tracks. Sax Gordon appears on three songs on baritone sax and adds his alto sax to one of them. Rogers Randle, Jr. is Dave’s regular saxman and he adds his great sound to several cuts. Chicago horn greats Kenny Anderson and Bill McFarland respectively play trumpet and trombone on a pair of cuts and a very special guest (to be named later) adds harp to one track.

“Mary Who” opens this new album; it is the song about a young gal who takes up the oldest profession and winds up losing her life. It’s an unfortunate tale of woe, and its delivery is both chilling and moving; Dave and band give the listener goosebumps as they tell this tale about the dark side of life. The haunting, backing vocals repeatedly calling, “Who? Mary Who” are superb as is Dave’s guitar, vocals and the overall support of the band.

A driving shuffle follows with stinging slide guitar in “Don’t Ever Change Your Ways.” Weld nails the lead guitar and solos and sings with abandon. The band lays out a vibrant groove as they give us another fine original to enjoy. Dave takes us home on guitar to end this wild ride. Monica is featured with her original “Don’t Tell Mama,” a standard from their live sets that effectively showcases her vocal skills. The song is about not telling mama that her daughter is not coming home, and warns not to break her heart by telling her she’s spending the night with a man mama does not approve of. Myhre is powerful fronting the band, while Weld nails another solo here and the organ solo is also a great addition.

Next is “Red Hot Tabasco” where Weld compares the spiciness of his woman to the famed hot sauce. A sweet piano solo, followed by another super guitar solo, help make this another winner. “Travelin’ Woman” is a funky number with a big horn sound that once again features Monica up front. A keyboard solo and the horns are splendid as the band gives us their all. “Now She’s Gone” is a slick, slow blues with Dave shouting out the blues for all to hear, and Billy Branch joins the fray with his outstanding harp work and soloing. Billy does an excellent job as he always does. Dave also spices things up with another guitar solo. It’s Chicago blues done up just right!

“Cry, Cry, Cry” takes things down a bit in tempo and timbre as Myhre tells her man off; she’s not gonna waste her time any more. Some fine B-3 work is featured here along with more sweet guitar riffs. Next up is “Donde Vas,” with Monica asking, “Where are you going,” in this Latin infused track. Randle offers some delightful tenor sax here as do the brass players -- another super song! “She Was A Woman” is a pretty and slow blues where Myhre sings of the foolishness of a young women who was taken advantage of by her man. Weld plays some dark guitar and Monica sings with passion.

The ever ebullient drummer Jeff Taylor leads the next cut with his suave and smooth vocals in “Hit By The 103,” a song about a pedestrian’s lucky day getting ruined when he’s killed by a bus. Weld picks out some cool stuff, the baritone sax gives the bottom end depth, and the alto sax delivers punch. Fortunately, Taylor tells us at the end it was just a dream and jokingly tells us he thinks Toronzo Cannon was driving that bus.

A wild, slide ride follows that with “Loving You.” Weld howls out the lead vocals and wails on his guitar. The West Side sound is obviously alive and well! Piano and organ both round out the sound in this vibrant number. The outro to the song is an extended whirling dervish of piano, organ, guitar, bass, drums and vocals.

Lastly, an extended mix of the opening cut concludes the album. Longer, darker and even cooler as the song fades out and then back in for more driving and musically moving stuff. If there is a song of the year award category for blues, then this song surely belongs in it!

Dave Weld and his band have outdone themselves. This is their third release on Delmark and they offer the listener their tightest and best effort ever with Nightwalk. This is an award worthy record; I most highly recommend this to anyone who loves Chicago blues. This is the real deal and belongs in your music collections!

About the Author: Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Byron/Rockford, IL


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