Music » Critics' Picks

Walter "Wolfman" Washington

Thursday, July 18; Broadway Oyster Bar


Neophytes can be forgiven for assuming that Walter "Wolfman" Washington is just another in a long line of Howlin' Wolf wannabes. In truth, Washington's style owes little to his legendary lupine predecessor, other than a reputation as an incendiary live act. Washington eschews Wolf's Delta and Chicago stylings and instead tackles the traditions of his hometown, New Orleans. For more than 40 years, he's been mixing his blues with gospel, funk, soul and jazz, to the delight of his fans.

Relatively young by blues standards, the 58-year-old Washington got his professional start in the late 1950s, supporting famed blues singer Johnny Adams. In the '60s, he worked with other New Orleans R&B legends such as Irma Thomas and Lee Dorsey before forming his own band. Since striking out on his own, Washington has built a reputation as a must-see live act. Although his first album wasn't released until 1981, he had by then secured a near-legendary reputation thanks largely to his club work in and around New Orleans with his road-tested Roadmasters in tow.

Washington's impassioned vocals fall closer to the deep-soul end of the spectrum than the traditional blues moan, and his guitar often stutters along in pure James Brown funk mode. Multiple horns add to his already high-octane stage show. The cost and hassle of keeping together a large touring band means that few young blues fans have had a chance to see a brass-heavy blues act in all its glory. Walter "Wolfman" Washington and the Roadmasters offer just such an opportunity.

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