Walter "Wolfman" Washington & the Roadmasters
Funk Is in the House
Bullseye Blues and Jazz 9599

Now here is a heady New Orleans brew of furious funk and soul stylings, courtesy Washington and Co.’s first U.S release in seven years. Cut live in the studio with minimal overdubs, this is some of the tightest ensemble playing you’ll hear all year.

There’s an agile rhythm base anchored by Wilbert "Junk Yard Dog" Arnold, master of the funky beats. Add the punch of the intricately swinging horn section arranged by trumpeter Larry Carter and punctuated by tenor saxman Tom Fitzpatrick and trombonist Dave Woodard. Top it all off with the emotive croonings and lean and clean guitar work of the Wolfman, and you’ve got an unstoppable funk and soul machine, the likes of which I haven’t heard since Tower of Power at their hey-day — it’s that potent.

The menu is effectively varied. There are smoldering instrumentals: The maniacal "Funkyard" showcases the abilities of the entire ensemble with great solos from all around, while "Wolf Funk" features Washington ax work — fast, impeccably clean and to-the-point. "Trials and Tribulations" is a powerful, gospel-tinged funk-sermon; "Please Come Back to Me" and "I’m in Love" are breezy, top-down soul moves. A cover of Kay Charles’ "Mary Ann" has the band executing some tight changes between a solid funk groove and bluesy swing tempo.

Wolfman’s pipes come across with some seriously soulful testifying on covers of Jerry Butler’s "I Stand Accused" and Teddy Pendergrass’ "Close the Door," almost making you forget the originals. "Funk Is in the House" cops a Maceo Parker/Fred Wesley-like groove to great effect. (Washington recorded with the JB Horns on 1994’s Europe-only Blue Moon Rising.)

Every track is a highlight, and how often does that happen? One solid funkfest.

— Jon Martinez

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Boulder, CO, USA.