What the world is saying:
“It says something about the rock genre when one of the best rock albums to come out in 2016 is labeled “blues.” Sure, there are elements of blues here, the same way bands like ZZ Top and Bad Company incorporate them. But, make no mistake, 21st Century Blues ROCKS. Wilks is an Austin guitarist who’s earned accolades for years in his native state, but this is his first new record in a decade.” (Feb 2016)
Blues Rock Review says:
“21st Century Blues has everything a great blues rock album needs. Driving drum beats with pronounced guitar licks that put you in a deep groove. This album left my ear buds glowing, and my fingers aching to play some riffs myself.” (Feb 2016)
Wilks’ first new studio album in 10 years is a solid set of blues-rock boasting some of the finest guitar tone ever put on wax, easily holding a candle to efforts by more-recognizable names such as Kenny Wayne Shepherd, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Joe Bonamassa.
“21st Century Blues” — like many other releases these days by independent artists of integrity — was crowdfunded, a win-win arrangement for the Austin, Texas-based singer/songwriter/guitarist and his fans but also confirmation of his relevance.
The record’s wide range of blues-rock subgenres is served by its ever-changing lineup from track to track.
“I wanted to use different players that I felt fit the song,” Wilks told Good New Music by email. “I like to use different players to keep new energy coming into the songs.”
“Drive By Lover” was co-written with sometimes collaborator Billy Gibbons. Originally recorded by ZZ Top as a bonus track on 2012’s “La Futura” (Best Buy edition), here it features background vocals by Christopher Cross.
Cross (who came full circle four years ago by returning to Texas after 30 years in Los Angeles) also contributes the album’s only non-Wilks guitar on his own “She Makes Me Crazy,” which features former Storyville singer Malford Milligan sharing vocals with Wilks.
The album was recorded at various Texas studios except for parts of “Golddiger,” for which Wilks’ vocals and some guitar were recorded at a studio outside Paris that had been a farm in the 1700s — “a magic place called Lumiere 13,” Wilks told GNM. He explained the French connection: “I’ve played France for years and have a great place in my heart for all things French. There’s a strong connection with Texas blues and the French music lovers. Don’t know why and I don’t try to figure it out!”
The centerpiece is “There’s a Sin in There Somewhere,” which begins like a scratchy 78 with solo resophonic guitar; morphs into a full-band showcase for electric slide à la Led Zeppelin’s version of “In My Time of Dying”; and concludes by smoothly segueing to a solo-resophonic outro. (February 2016)
Written by Duane Verh –
Review Rating Star
Austin-based Van Wilks belongs to that select circle of guitarslingers whose skill at crafting songs makes for an impressive add-on to their fretboard fireworks. His current release is well stocked with ear-catching fare with plenty of the prerequisite axe prowess on display and most every track distinctive from the last. “Golddigger” is a classic SRV-styled drag-tempo shuffle. Solid rockers include “Drive By Lover” and “Strange Girl”. The title track is breezy, slightly jazzy affair, one of a number here that should snag some airtime. (January 2016)
Reflections In Blue Bill Wilson
Texas has produced its share of blues and soul performers, not the least of whom is Van Wilks. 21st Century Blues is his first studio album in ten years and to put it bluntly…this one will blow your mind. Wilks freely admits that “This is not a typical blues recording. This is “My Blues”…It’s just that Low Down, Wound Up, Rockin’ Texas Blues.” As for style, this one is all over the map. The one constant is his guitar work, which, to say the very least is phenomenal. Aside from his exceptional guitar work, Van Wilks is a great songwriter, writing (or co-writing) all the tunes on the album with the exception of “She Makes Me Crazy” by Christopher Cross, who also plays guitar on that particular track which has vocals furnished by Austin vocal hero Malford Milligan. Also appearing on the album is ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, who co-wrote “Drive By Lover” with Wilks. That tune appeared on an earlier ZZ Top album. 21st Century Blues is incredibly diverse, blending hard-rockin’ blues with a laid back soul, bits and pieces that could have been done in the Delta in the 1920s, and some slow burnin’ “belly rubbers” that are certain to fill the dance floor with young lovers and those who want to be. Through it all, Wilks remains deeply rooted in blues. Building on the foundation of blues tradition, the band takes it, as stated in the title into the 21st century, keeping it relevant to the new generation of fans while staying in a space that those who still have at least one foot planted in the British Invasion will find interesting. In many ways this one is like a ride through contemporary blues history and, somewhat like a soundtrack to our lives. There is something in here to satisfy everyone’s taste and, regardless of our likes and dislikes where style is concerned, good music is good music…and you can’t argue with the quality of the musicianship. This is one of those albums that has a wide variety of performers including not only Van Wilks on guitar & vocals but Christopher Cross as well, drummers include Tommy Taylor, Charlie Fountain, Nico Leophonte and Scott Laningham. On bass we have Dave Ray, Reggie Witty, Mark Epstein, Andy Salmon & Chris Maresh. On keyboards we have Billy Mason and Stefano Intelisano and on added vocals we have Malford Milligan, Christopher Cross, Tommy Taylor, Reggie Witty, Lisa Tingle and Maria Estelle Raffone as the voice of the Mexican angel. Wilks deserves an award for providing work for so many artists, at the very least
This album stirred up memories that had previously been long forgotten. Well worth a good listen and then some. – Bill Wilson
Website – http://vanwilks.com/
FaceBook – https://www.facebook.com/Van-Wilks-Band-355116143941/
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Van+Wilks
iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/21st-century-blues/id1061319208
Posted 1st January by Bill Wilson
Wilks, Van – 21st Century Blues
Review by: Daniel Pavlica
Produced by: Van Wilks
Label: Texas ’51 records
“21st Century Blues” is Van Wilks’ first studio effort in 10 years, and captures the man perfecting his knack of mixing veritable blues influences with contemporary rock principles.
Wilks vocal delivery packs up words like dirty and illicit, and is reminiscent of scuffed mahogany. And while he’s not doing anything earth-shattering in terms of arrangements (he simply doesn’t have to), he has a superior guitar touch (“Midnight Crossing”), killer phrasing and, above all a likable, scruffy tone exemplified on “There’s A Sin In There Somewhere”. There is much dewy, elegiac beauty attached to the magnificent “Just Walk Away”, meanwhile Wilks glides through the sonic blues squalls of “She Makes Me Crazy” and summer night rockers like “Can’t Stop Thinkin’” with considerable ease, thus signaling the confident and classy realization of his potential. There’s funky swagger in the heels of “Who’s Foolin’ Who” and on the moody title number, Wilks shows off something of a natural flair for storytelling.
Bold, fairly dramatic and sometimes tinged with disarming melancholy, these are songs to lose yourself in. Dig in!