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Uncle Walt's Band

Uncle Walt's Band – 2019 (Omnivore)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Uncle Walt's Band

The self-titled debut album from Uncle Walt's Band already had a retro feel when it was initially released in 1974 with its appealing mix of jazz, folk, blues and country. The Spartanburg, S.C. trio of Walter Hyatt (guitar, vocals), Champ Hood (guitar, fiddle, mandolin, vocals) and David Ball (bass, vocals) became mainstays of the Austin music scene of the '70s following this effort. This reissue includes 11 previously unreleased tracks that nicely complement the original 11 tunes.

Ball provides the strongest country track with the ballad "Don't You Think I Feel It Too" that was subsequently covered by Lyle Lovett, Jessi Colter and Shawn Colvin. Ball proves to be equally adept at old time jazz with "Dish Wiped Clean" and the live bonus cuts "Since You've Been Gone" and "Early Riser." Hood is the most accomplished musician of the group delivering hot solos on the Django Reinhardt classic "Undecided" and a cover of Professor Longhair's "In The Night."

Some of Hyatt's better moments come in the bonus tracks such as his compositions "Lonely In Love" (also covered by Lovett) and "Your Father's Frown" with harmonies reminiscent of the Eagles. The set kicks off with Hyatt's moody take on the Ray Charles hit "Ruby" which has a '30s jazz feel to it.

Produced by the band, the sound is fueled by sweet harmonies equally evocative of the Mills Brothers, the Sons of the Pioneers and The Beatles. Though the trio enjoyed regional success, national fame eluded Uncle Walt's Band which dissolved in 1983. Of the group the lone surviving member Ball (Hyatt perished in the tragic ValuJet Flight 592 crash in 1996 in the Everglades and Hood died of cancer in 2001) has enjoyed the most commercial success particularly with the country hit "Thinkin' Problem" in 1994. With this release, an underappreciated classic and some gems from the vaults are given some of the exposure they deserve.