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Doin' the Funky Thing

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Album Review

Look no further than the title to summarize this New Orleans veteran's music on his first studio set in nearly a decade. Bookending the album with the two-part "Shake Your Booty/Funky Thing" ensures that the proceedings start and end with the rump-shaking, horn-propelled R&B that, along with jazz, soul, and blues, makes Walter "Wolfman" Washington's music so much a part of his Crescent City home. He's never been particularly prolific, but after the long span between releases — partially due to the effects and aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina — the Wolf sounds electrified and inspired here. The second track, "I'm Back," tells that story against an urgent groove that keeps the party atmosphere while recounting the hurricane's devastation and his attempts to get the city and its people to return to a place that will never be the same. Wolf emits one of his patented howls on "Tweakin'," pushing the bumping rhythm into overdrive as the horns punctuate the choruses. His nimble guitar licks, somewhat similar to those of George Benson, offset the harder edge, bringing sensitivity and subtlety to the upbeat, get-down proceedings. Bluesy ballads "One Day from Being a Fool" and the low-key second line of "Crescent City Starlights" vary the mood while allowing Washington to explore his considerable vocal chops, which range from smooth to gritty. He swings like "Gatemouth" Brown on "Just Like That," a song from bassist Jack Cruz, who co-wrote four others with the guitarist. It's these tunes that make this arguably the finest entry in Washington's catalog. Each boasts hummable melodies and finger-snapping arrangements that play to the artist's strengths without overwhelming them. Wolfman (wearing his producer hat) and saxophonist Jimmy Carpenter (who also arranged the horns so integral to the sound) can take credit for much of this project's success by keeping the vibe taut yet raw enough to let the considerable soul shine through. The album doesn't break new ground, but shows Washington to be on top of his game with an invigorating set that will make you move your body with music that connects on every level. At this stage in his long career, that counts as a resounding success.


Born: 21 December 1943 in New Orleans, LA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Walter Washington became a local legend in the black clubs of New Orleans in the '70s and '80s and worked his way up to national status with a series of well-received albums and appearances. His recording affiliations have likewise moved from local to national independent to major label. An innovative guitarist and fine singer who has also done some excellent work with vocalist Johnny Adams, Washington...
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Doin' the Funky Thing, Walter "Wolfman" Washington
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