Local Jamblasters drip in swampy blues



are the days when you need to convince people of Waterloo Region’s thriving blues scene. If you need proof, however, check out the Jamblasters’ aptly named, sophomore release Swampland. Inspired by the legendary London sessions of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, Riley Waters and Hills Walter dish up a tasty gumbo of delta jump blues. Walter, with his bottom-of-the-barrel voice and scorching harmonica, and Waters, on slide and rhythm guitars, share songwriting credits. They get a helping hand from Peter Polfuss on keyboards and bass, Wally Horn and John McKinley on guitar and DW King on drums. Swampland transports listeners to the heat-drenched bayous of the Mississippi swamp, the source and heartland of the blues.

March 05, 2009

Introducing, for the first time ever, the brand-spanking-new, hot-off-the-presses debut release by The Jamblasters, Living the Blues.

Recorded in 1997.

The liner notes offer no explanation as to why a dozen years elapsed between recording and release, but such procrastination is forgivable, given the quality of the tunes.

After all, if Axl Rose can dilly-dally for 14 years before releasing the sixth Guns N’ Roses disc, Chinese Democracy, surely an independent blues band from Kitchener can take their sweet time in self-producing their debut.

Given that the music of the Jamblasters — a groovy, swampy spin on classic Delta blues — is firmly rooted in decades-old traditions, it wouldn’t be surprising if the band revealed they actually recorded the album 50 years ago.

Like fine wine (or rather, not-so-fine moonshine), this kind of music improves with age, so perhaps The Jamblasters were just letting their tunes ferment for more than a decade to maximize potency.

If that was the plan, the plan worked. From the opening track, Hellhounds — a broken-heart lament with twangy slide guitar and plaintive harmonica wail — the six-track album transports the listener to the backwoods of Mississippi.

Vocalist Hills Walt — a big dude with a big voice — bemoans lost loves and liquored livers with the gritty panache of B.B. King and other greats of electric blues. When he lets loose and really belts it out, which is frequently, he demonstrates pipes more powerful than a cathedral organ.

The band refuses to tinker with tradition, sticking to the if-it-ain’t-broke philosophy about their chosen genre. It doesn’t make for the most original or adventurous listening experience, but an comfortingly familiar one. It’s music ideally suited to being heard live at a cosy, boozy barroom.

And chances are just such an opportunity will soon arise, as The Jamblasters are currently in the studio working on their yet-unnamed second album.

They’ll certainly be throwing some gigs around town when the next album comes out — ideally in less than a decade this time.

Colin Hunter Within earshot

Rootstime Review from Belgium

Ontario, Canada 1997. songwriter Lee Grove aka Riley Waters slide guitarist met the singer Hilliard Walter. With their common love of the blues, they fill each other well. Walter is in Water’s a vote for his lyrics and vice versa. There is growing a close friendship and a blues band is born. Forty songs were ready, and six songs were recorded when suddenly the bassist and keyboard player Al Affeldt was killed by a drunken driver. The group faded from the end of 1997 and now they are back, the solid core with Walter and Waters is now serving with musicians Walter Horn, one of the finest Canadian guitarists of the time, the multi instrumentalist Peter Polfuss and drummer Ralph Boegli . The six songs on this CD are still images of an up and coming band in 1997 that seemed so promising. Now they will hit back, and very soon we hope more new work of their hearing. These recordings of ten years ago, six pure blues songs, beginning with the acoustic “Hellhounds” Robert Johnson’s Delta-style at its best, followed by “Dreamin ‘Reality Blues” a quiet shuffle. Not every song is equally strong but “Past My Prime” in terms of building which recalls The Lemon Song by Led Zeppelin, and certainly the beautiful valve “Dollar Short / Day Late”, a beautiful acoustic song, beautifully sung by Hilliard Walter are definitely worthwhile. We will only know what this band is worth anno 2009 as the new full CD arrives. We are curious. (RON)

Roots of Blues
Man what a song! From the vocals to the harp to the mood. Brings you down to the roots of the blues. Vocals have that deep suthern quatlity that fit perfectly with the vibe. Guitar is cool and fills the pocket just right. Extra credit to the harmonica/harp player.
– TobaccoRoad from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 4Jun2008

Soulful Performance ! !
Very tasteful playing on the guitar. It compliments the vocals very well. The bass is solid. I like the brushes on the drums. The lyrics sound heart-felt. The vocals have SOUL. They have great emotion! You made me think of Edgar Winter which is very cool. The mood is soulful and bluesy! I dig it! Five stars.
– skeeboknight from Macon, Georgia on 16May2008

Sweet Lord the Blues!
Gets ya into the groove right away!
Dark, raspy, gutsy, bluesy vocals… very crisp and clean. Amazing guitar leads… just a wicked tune to listen to….
The performance is tight… the bass works well with the track.
– opnsrc from Currently…, Ontario, Canada on 23Jun2008

good ol fashioned blues…sounds like a street corner in mississippi circa 1937…very cool…keep the blues alive!
– Dirk_McNasty from Rockaway Beach, Missouri on 19Jun2008

Robert Cray would be proud of this one
drum beat abit to hard needs to go back abit for me? the guitars are fine the vocals are just right . A great tight nit tune with a really nice groove lead guitar break really cool to, all round good blues track, great vocals. heart and soul in this one… it
– theoneandonly_bluesman from Manchester, United Kingdom on 16Jun200

Really clean, tight sound right off the bat. Bassist and drummer on the same page. The vocals are edgy, original and cool (mostly): I appreciate the clarity of the delivery, although it slips in and out of musical-theater quality; they could be dirtier. The rhythm guitar is subtle and supportive as it should be. Great harmonica playing. Great song length as well.
– arkestratos from New York on 26Jun2008