Wamble: Blue-Eyed Soul Knee-Deep in the Traditions of the Mississippi Delta
By Terry Roland
On the journey we call Americana music, there are artists who come from such an original place, they nearly create their own genre. Clearly, jazz guitarist, Doug Wamble’s ancestry is from hard-categorize artists with a strong blend of jazz, rhythm and blues, country, and gospel; He has discovered his own signature style as did Sam Cooke, The Band, Allan Toussaint, Al Green and The Neville Brothers before him, who operated from their personal roots to create something unique and original based in the soul of the American tradition. On a recent phone interview, Wamble told of the impact of his transition from pure jazz to a unique Americana sound.
Doug Wamble has the good fortune of being raised in Memphis, home to Elvis and to that muddy mix of delta blues, country and gospel. His new, self-titled, album, Doug Wamble, takes full advantage of this. There is no mistaking; he comes from a recent background steeped in modern Jazz. On previous releases including collaborations with the Marsalis brothers, he has been called a jazz purist. But jazz isn’t what he’s all about.
Being raised in the heart of a community centered around his local Baptist church where he learned important lessons about the gritty holiness of music and its unique soul and transformative power. While songs from the old dusty hymn books of Bible-Belt churches may seem limited in focus and style, Doug soaked himself in the joy of it, the celebration of his community and something larger than himself. But, he did not find his calling in narrow-minded theology; His muse discovered songs like “Sweet By and By” and “I’ll Fly Away,” and they were planted inside of him and grew into a passion for all things musical. In this, he comes across like the carefully planned image- building commercial campaign of The Band during the late 60’s with their emphasis on family, contrasting them with the surrounding subculture of rebellion. However, The Band and their first two albums (Music From Big Pink and The Band) was part of a fictional projection; a gamble which paid off in record sales. In Wamble’s case, as heard on this fine new album, there’s no need to project a false image. He’s the real thing. He is a blue-eyed soulful singer-songwriter who loves his family and the roots of his raising which run deep. It’s the source of a baptism in the music of the Mississippi Delta.
But, this is another kind of a purist’s record beyond the jazz of his past;. It’s pure American music, both urban and rural, gentle then passionate. Listening brings to mind how good music has a life of its own. On this release, Wamble has broadened his canvas in his portrait of the American musical landscape. When asked why he went from an instrumentalist to a singer-songwriter, Wamble said he wanted to stay at home with his kids while his wife toured with a professional ballet company. This move gave him enough down time from recording and the road to find the songs that come from this deeply personal and soulful album. Its consistency and style is reminiscent of Nora Jones’ Come Away With Me. Instrumentally, the collection of songs walks the fine line of holding to the roots of the music with brass arrangements that support, rather than overwhelm, the instrumentation. This reflects the craft and an experience of southern music from the inside. And some of those roots include Elvis Presley and Sam Phillips stumbling on their unique blend of country and rhythm& blues in the Yellow Sun days.
When asked about the key
to his musical talent the guitarist said when he gives up his ego and allows
a greater force to move through him, the magic of the music happens.
For Doug, as is apparent on this new album, the greater force is the simple
power of music, the embrace of his foundation and his willingness and ability
to open new windows of his artistry and original style.