If you're heading to the Heritage Music BluesFest in Wheeling this weekend (and you should be), you'll have a chance to see a local performer kick off Saturday's main stage shows.
Billy "The Kid" Evanochko of Hopewell will bring his tough brand of blues, his special guest teen piano sensation Shailen Abram on keyboards, and especially his excellent new CD -- which we'd like to focus on here.
Billy's been around the Burgh music scene for a decade or so, working on his funky, soulful style in clubs and at festivals. The new album, "She Got A Hold On Me" is a thoroughly engaging effort, with five crisp originals, including the title track, and a couple of sharp covers.
It pulls together what he's been doing, and the incisive songwriting and funky guitar work point to where he's going. The band is loose, rhythmic and funky, with some horn and keyboard work to round out Billy's gritty vocals and stinging guitar.
The opening track, "Nothing to Lose," offers up a little reflection on Billy's latest musical efforts -- taking a chance on using his music to define him personally and professionally. And with this finely tuned production, Evanochko emerges as a fully rounded musician with his own distinctive voice.
"Say You Wanna Woman" is a sly little twist on the guy who can't get a woman; the title track is another lyric that kind of comes at you sideways (.... "the devil, she got a hold on me...."); "Disturbed By the Peace" is a little slice of Billy's life - an adventure with loud music and police. "Free From Your Spell" pits edgy guitar lines against torchy vocals - a nice pairing.
He also does excellent work on Billy Ray Hatley's "One More Chance," which Michael Burks recorded, and on the Albert King chestnut "Born Under A Bad Sign." Much to his credit, the covers are much more than covers, as Evanochko recycles the music through his own blues sensibilities.
The crackling band deserves a shout here, too, as does the skillful production work of Don Garvin and Bob Prince. At least for this CD, Evanochko is working as Billy The Kid, dropping the Regulators from the band name. The studio group includes Regulators Jon Vallecorsa, guitar; Joe Pinchotti, drums; Tim Mabin, keyboards; Gary Ripper, bass; plus Charlie Barath, harp; Joe Munroe, accordion; and Neil Lowery, slide guitar.
"She Got A Hold On Me" is a fine effort, done with style and a great musical sense of where Billy The Kid wants to be. Check him out at Wheeling.
And I think you'll also like the piano work of Shailen Abram, who won the first Youth Blues Challenge of the Blues Society of Western Pa. earlier this year.