Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Rev. Billy C. Wirtz: “Full Circle” (2016) CD Review

There are quite a few holy men out there giving the faithful a daily dose of the good word  – Reverend Horton Heat, Reverend Peyton, Reverend Freakchild, and Reverend Billy C. Wirtz among them. Full Circle, the new CD from Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, provides us with an energetic sense of fun that we desperately need these days, a reminder that we ought not take ourselves too seriously. If you feel down, or left behind, I highly recommend putting on this disc. Plus, I read somewhere that you’re guaranteed a nice apartment in the afterworld if you listen to Rev. Billy C. Wirtz. This album is a combination of studio tracks and live numbers, original material and covers, and features the members of The Nighthawks backing the good reverend. Also joining him on certain tracks are Bob Driver on guitar and vocals, Steve Riggs on bass and backing vocals, and Ronnie Owens on harmonica and backing vocals.

Reverend Billy C. Wirtz kicks off the album with “Too Old,” great bar music, stuff to get you moving, shouting, drinking, laughing. This song features some good work on harmonica. “You know, I may not know Jack, but I’ve had my fun with Jill/Climbed every mountain, just another hill/Too young to be a legend, too old to be the news.” Yes, another song about aging. There seems to be a lot of them these days, or perhaps I’m just paying more attention to them. That’s followed by a delicious, fun old time bluesy rock and roll instrumental tune titled “Smokie Part 2,” originally done by Bill Black’s Combo. I love that piano. He also delivers a groovy cover of “Your Last Goodbye,” an instrumental by pianist Floyd Cramer. Also on this disc he covers Charlie Rich’s “Breakup,” a song from Charlie’s 1960 debut LP, Lonely Weekends.

“Mama was a deadhead” is a song that was included on the reverend’s 1994 release, Pianist Envy, which happened to be the first CD of his I ever heard. At the time I was a DJ at KWVA, and a big Grateful Dead fan, and so when that CD came in, I had to give it a listen. I dug it, particularly this song, which made me laugh, and actually I thought I took that disc home with me. But I just now spent close to an hour searching through my CDs and I can’t find it. What the fuck? I blame Donald Trump. Well, Reverend Billy revisits the song on this album, though at the beginning he says about the song, “And for whatever reason I never got it on a record before.” Wait, did he forget about the other album? Or have I gone mad? It’s hard to tell. Anyway, the song is filled with references to specific Dead tunes, like “Casey Jones,” “Dark Star,” “Sugaree,” “Morning Dew” and “Turn On Your Lovelight.” Clearly, Billy knows a thing or two about the band, for he sings, “I had the Jerry Garcia activities book that said, ‘Color all the T-shirts black.’” This is a live track. Also recorded in front of an audience is “Daddy Passed Away,” and at the beginning he tells the story of how the song came about, a woman telling him, “Yeah, Daddy passed away and my stepmother ran off with her favorite girlfriend.” This track includes a false start.

In “Who Dat? (The Rev’s Theme),” Reverend Billy C. Wirtz occasionally sings about himself in the third person. But don’t worry, God gave him the okay to do that. He follows that with “I’m A Senior,” another song about being old. It makes me laugh every time, as he shouts the lyrics since, you know, he’s a senior, opening it with these lines: “I don’t hear her voice when she calls me dear/I’m not mad, I just can’t hear.” Other lines that make me laugh include “Why oh why do I have to pee every time that I sneeze” and “I got a red pill to help me when I can’t poop/A blue one to help me when I go droop.” He ends it with the line “We’re all seniors.” Yup, getting that way, isn’t it?

His rendition of Stick McGhee’s “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” (here titled “Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee”) is a whole hell of a lot of fun, and should you get you dancing and feeling good, even if – God forbid – you’re sober. I expect we’ll all be drinking to excess in order to get through the next four years of bullshit and horror. This track is actually one of my favorites. He follows it with another fun one, “Mennonite Surf Party,” the title of which alone is enough to make me laugh. There is more great stuff on keys. And check out that harmonica work by Mark Wenner. “A Mennonite girl got a fine set of lungs/Roll me on the floor, you make me talk in tongues.”

And don’t worry, before the end of the album, we get a good sermon in “The Hand Of The Almighty,” a song written by John R. Butler. “Well, sinner do not stray/From the straight and narrow way/You know that the almighty’s watching you/When you see the devil’s den/Turn around and don’t go in/Lest the hand of the almighty falls on you/He’ll fuck you up/Yeah, God will fuck you up/If you dare to disobey his strict commands.” Consider yourselves warned, sinners!

CD Track List
  1. Too Old
  2. Smokie Part 2
  3. One Point Five
  4. Mama Was A Deadhead
  5. Rockin’ Up To Gloryland
  6. Your Last Goodbye
  7. Daddy Passed Away
  8. Breakup
  9. Who Dat? (The Rev’s Theme)
  10. I’m A Senior
  11. Daddy Was A Sensitive Man
  12. Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee
  13. Mennonite Surf Party
  14. The Hand Of The Almighty
  15. Reprise (Smokie Part 2.5)
Full Circle was released on September 16, 2016 (or perhaps on October 21, 2016, according to the press sheet) on EllerSoul Records.

No comments:

Post a Comment