ALBUMS: The Ramble of Doug Wamble

Ken Burns collaborator cools out at the crossroads of jazz and blues

Doug Wamble (Image: BandCamp)

Doug Wamble may not be a household name, but his work has a reach far beyond those who know him.

He has worked alongside Natalie Merchant and Norah Jones among many others and has done soundtrack work for Ken Burns on several projects. Blues in the Present Tense is his latest release as a leader and highlights his unique blend of jazz, blues and Americana. 

Recent years have given us all things to be angry about and underneath the blending of jazz and blues, this record mines a vein of raw emotion to fuel the music. But the anger present is experienced at a distance and it feels like Wamble is trying to make sense of everything that happened.

Artist: Doug Wamble 

Album: Blues in the Present Tense

Label: Halcyonic Records

★★★★ (4/5 stars) 

In many ways, the opener “Homesick” sets the mood. Wamble’s guitar work is quite traditional at first glance, harkening back to the likes of Eddie Lang or even Charlie Christian. But upon closer inspection, some of the chord voicings are quite modern, almost bringing to mind James “Blood” Ulmer. 

Wamble delivers his vocal in a style reminiscent of Van Morrison. He sings the chorus, “Homesick, sick of my home” with weariness rather than rage as if trying to extract some piece of wisdom from the pain.

Doug Wamble Blues in the Present Tense, Halcyonic Records 2022

Backing him up is as a top-notch band one could ask for. Prometheus Jenkins plays tenor and soprano saxophone and provides swinging, bluesy lines that perfectly match the music’s mood. And Eric Revis and Jeff “Tain” Watts on bass and drums respectively are damn near household names for their work with various Marsalis family members among so many other credits. Wamble wisely allows this ensemble to stretch its feet on the instrumental “Blues for the Unfounded”. This piece walks a tightrope between traditional and abstract and leaves the listener longing for a follow-up album of instrumental music from the group.

The ensemble walks a fine line between blues and jazz throughout the record, all in service to Wamble’s vision as a singer/songwriter. “No Worries” while not instrumental, mines a rich vein of jazz harmony and jazz swing to supplement the vocals. It sounds familiar yet there’s nothing predictable about the tune. The meter doesn’t feel like a standard 4/4 and the tonality is ambiguous, yet these qualities make the song that much more intriguing.

With songs like “MAGA Brain” and “If I’m Evil”, it’s not hard to parse out where Wamble’s political sympathies lie. But if there’s an olive branch to be found it’s in the introspective approach he employs in these songs. On a tune like “No Worries”, he even adopts the viewpoint opposite his own. Blues in the Present Tense doesn’t so much offer solutions as it offers a way to sit with our trouble and gain the wisdom to move forward, and all this takes place within a swinging musical backdrop that is hard to resist.


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Todd Manning

Todd Manning is a recovering musician who mostly writes about Metal and Jazz various places around the internet, including Burning Ambulance, Cvlt Nation and No Clean singing. He lives in Indianapolis, IN.

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