Geraint Watkins Dial W For Watkins

The news that a veteran sideman is stepping into the spotlight with a solo record is not usually cause for celebration. The results generally have the listener hollerin' "don't give up your day job." Welsh keyboard wizard Geraint Watkins happily provides an exception to that rule. Dial W For Watkins, his North American debut, is an excellent disc that reveals his previously hidden talents as a songwriter and owner of an authentically bluesy voice. A veteran of the British pub rock era (Red Beans & Rice), Watkins is much in-demand by the likes of Van Morrison, Nick Lowe and Bill Wyman, frequently recording and touring with them. His mate Lowe returns the favour by playing bass and adding backing vocals to some cuts here. A definite late-period Lowe feel is apparent here on such songs as "Bring Me The Head Of My So Called Lover" and "The Whole Night Through." Watkins has the same kind of laid-back, emotionally convincing and open-hearted vocal delivery. He's prepared to take a few risks too, as he turns the Beach Boys classic "Heroes And Villains" (the only cover here) into a light-hearted jazzy vamp and indulges in a little Moby Play-style production trickery on "Turn That Chicken Down." An unassuming but delightful effort, this goes down as a treat with a glass of good bourbon. (Yep Roc)