That Scott “Wino” Weinrich is a legend is surely undisputable. What is more remarkable is that, approaching 50, his work rate seems to have increased dramatically and the quality of his output never seems to falter. Hot on the heels of his acoustic “Adrift” album we are treated to the full Wino live experience from the 2009 Roadburn festival.
Continuing with the 3 piece format that served him so well in Spirit Caravan, the Obsessed and The Hidden Hand, Wino, for his solo outing, assembled a fine cast of rogues. The late Jon Blank occupied the bass slot but would sadly pass away 4 days after this recording. On drums the inimitable JP Gaster from Clutch, surely one of the best drummers out there at the moment. It’s clear from the start that Wino means business!!!
The remarkable thing about Wino is the distinguished nature of his musical identity. St Vitus and Shrinebuilder aside, Wino has a style that sets him apart. The fact that he is able to include numerous tracks here from The Obsessed and occasional tracks from Spirit Caravan and The Hidden Hand alongside his solo work and integrate it all seamlessly into a whole set speaks volumes. The Obsessed’s “Streetside” follows on immediately from “Punctuated Equilibrium” the title track of his solo album, with nary a glitch. If anything this album reinforces the idea that many of his previous bands have been little more than vehicles for Wino’s ideas anyway. People may question some of the set list but in a career spanning more than 30 years and countless albums he will never please everybody…though he tries!!! The Hidden Hand’s “Sunblood” rubs its soulful shoulders with a number of Obsessed classics such as Neatz Brigade, Skybone and Yen Sleep while there is one sole offering from the much underrated Spirit Caravan, “Lost Sun Dance”. Wino’s solo album is represented with only a handful of tracks that sit comfortably alongside his back catalogue.
Throughout Wino proves why he is so venerated. His guitar playing is near faultless, but not so much to deny his fallibility, the little slips, although few and far between, emphasise the truly live nature of this release and stick you right there in the front row watching his fingers blaze. Wino’s voice is as rich and tempered with the patina of age as ever yet still shot through with the rage and aggression of a man with an agenda and an opinion you should listen to. The band backing him up also proves to be a masterstroke. Blank, while not a flashy player, underpins the whole sound with a solid groove. This ability to remain rock solid locks right in with Gaster’s drumming. It is interesting to hear Gaster outside of his day job and he’s clearly enjoying the opportunity to explore to explore grooves outside of the bosom of Clutch. The fact that Wino’s style does draw heavily from jazz blends perfect with Gaster’s own explorations in that area and the two players are able to go head to head in some thrilling jams, in particular on the extended free for all of “Release Me” from the “Punctuated Equilibrium” album. Elsewhere, particularly on the older material, Gaster brings a fresh flow to the songs without losing the power or aggression of the originals.
Sound wise we are left in no doubt that this is as live as an album can get. It is just one step away from being a soundboard recording, albeit an exceptional one. This is one of the biggest selling points, however. Each instrument sits right in the mix in the perfect spot and the sound is admirably rich for such an honest recording. Wino and Roadburn Records have also not skimped on the recording, this is the whole set as it went down…no omitting tracks because of fluffs or fluctuations in response or quality…this is a warts and all document of a unique and special band on a special night for them. When Wino tells the crowd from the stage how much he enjoys playing with this line-up you can’t help but believe him, that spirit oozes from this recording.
With Wino’s continued work with Shrinebuilder, St Vitus and his acoustic sets, Gaster’s commitments to Clutch and the passing of Blank we will never see this line-up play again. Hopefully Wino will see fit to resurrect his solo electric career in some format in the future but for now this is as perfect and honest a document as you could wish to have.
(The Sleeping Shaman)