Willie McBlind
Gig Seeker Pro

Willie McBlind

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Blues Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"BAD THING selected to appear in Blues Revue Sampler CD"

"Calling their music 'harmonically tuned electric delta blues' this New York band is nothing but interesting. Fronted by Jon Catler on guitar and Babe Borden on vocals, their approach to the blues borders on psychedelic while remaining true to the roots in a kind of rocking Otis Taylor style. This edgy jump-blues track was produced by Jim Gaines." - BLUES REVUE MAGAZINE - BLUES REVUE MAGAZINE - WOMEN WHO SING THE BLUES ISSUE (Nov/Dec 2010)

"BEST NEW 2010 NEW CD'S OF 2010 !!!"

Willie McBlind's BAD THING CD, reviewed by Frank-John Hadley in August 2010 and awarded a 4 star**** review, listed as one of Downbeat's BEST NEW CD'S OF 2010 in the end of the year issue, published in January 2011. - Downbeat Magazine (January 2011)

"Review of BAD THING by Art Tipaldi"

"As a side journey from the blues, during the late 1970's, I listened to the improvisational jazz championed by the German label, ECM. Experimental bands like Air, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Keith Jarrett were as satisfying as the earthiest Delta blues. To me, those freeform ventures are what I hear in guitarist Jon Catler and vocalist Babe Borden's Willie McBlind band. The band is centered on the avant-garde guitar work of Catler. Throughout the nine songs (three covers, six originals), Catler fingers either a 64-tone Just Intonation or fretless guitars with sounds as oddly intriguing as what W.C. Handy must have heard at a rail station in Tutwiler, MS.

I know the sounds of a fretless guitar, but Catler explains the other. "The 64-tone system is pure just intonation, so every pitch is from the harmonic series." It's a custom guitar with 40 frets allowing Catler to explore notes between the notes, and find sounds and colors you won't hear from any other blues guitarist. With that futuristic foundation, Willie McBlind went to Hugh Pool's Excello Studios in Brooklyn (See Don Wilcock's review of Pool's Mulebone CD in this issue.), mixed half the songs there, and then had Jim Gaines mix the others.

Like many BR readers, I've heard numerous interpretations of "Nobody's Fault But Mine." But I've never heard it played on a Catler's twenty-second century guitar. Ditto Willie Dixon's "It Don't Make Sense (You Can't Make Peace). At times, Catler's enormous bends and dark feedback vibrations are reminiscent of mid-sixties' strobe lit experimentations. At the same time, Borden, a New England Conservatory trained vocalist, uses her expansive, octave-spanning

vocals to breathe fresh air into these up-to-the minute interpretations. The originals are just as exploratory. "Blood Moon" takes Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Gotta Move" from Como to outer space; likewise "Primo," which takes the "Pony Blues" idea into Hendrix's guitar landscape; "Storms" unfurls amid Catler's ominous fretless probings; and the title cut utilizes lyrical snatches of "Mystery Train" combined with Catler's gooey, fretless slide.

The record ends with "Lucky Man," an arresting, seven-plus minute highlight. With only six strings, Catler demonstrates a new wave array of sounds and colors. Is it blues? Not in the traditional sense, but Willie McBlind does have a radical answer to those who wonder what the future of the blues can sound like."


"CD Review: Willie McBlind, Bad Thing, by Johnny Full-Time"

"Willie McBlind, the self professed Blues Psychedelic Rock band out of NYC come calling with their latest release, Bad Thing, on the Independent Free Note Records.

When you first press play on the album, you have to do a double take, because your first impulse will be to say that Bad Thing isn't a Blues album. The nine track disc starts up like a devilish jack in the box, slowly cranking up until it pops into "13 O' Clock Blues," an instrumental shuffle that will definitely have you dancing by the time it's reached its final note.

From there, you had better hold on tight, because it's a wild ride. Willie McBlind launch into the title track, followed by "Primo," with Jon Catler and Babe Borden's vocals layered in a very cool and spooky manner. It's the kind of Rock and Blues mash-up that The White Stripes flirt around with, but never seem to go steady with. Catler and Borden have dubbed it "Harmonic Blues," and you could dare say Hypnotic Blues would be an equally appropriate moniker.

It's all attributed to the tuning of the instruments that are played by Willie McBlind's band members. According to the limited research that I've done to better understand what I'm hearing when I listen to Willie McBlind, most music we all listen to uses what's called the Twelve Tone Equal Temperament system. Willie McBlind features instruments tuned in the 64-tone Just Intonation system, which provides players with an entirely new set of tones and notes that they can capture (if I'm understanding that correctly). The result is a sound that initially threw me off, but the deeper I got into Bad Thing, the more I understood and enjoyed.

Blind Willie Johnson's "Nobody's Fault But Mine" is the first of three covers on the disc, and was my first exposure to Willie McBlind. Catler growls the lyrics under Borden's sailing vocals, and the musicianship is arguably at it's best on the tune.

Other covers on the disc include Borden singing solo on Robert Johnson's "Stones In My Passway," along with Willie Dixon's "It Don't Make Sense (You Can't Make Peace)," which takes on an air of social commentary here, very well done. All three of the songs were arranged by Catler to fit the 64-tone Just Intonation system, as well as Willie McBlind's unique style.

The closer, "One Lucky Man," a lovely, drifting tune features guest vocals by Hugh Pool, and provides a beautiful end to this wild ride.

In conclusion, you likely don't have anything like Bad Thing in your collection, and honestly, had I not received this CD in the mail, it may have gone unnoticed by myself. You owe it to yourself to check out Willie McBlind, and to give Bad Thing a listen."

Standout Tracks: "13 O' Clock Blues," "Blood Moon," and "One Lucky Man"
-Johnny Fulltime - www.fulltimeblues.com

"All About Jazz, JAN 2010"

CD Review: Bad Thing - Willie McBlind

"Many elements comprise the spirit of the authentic blues, from the weary, lonesome and forlorn lyrics and voices to the bent, plaintive notes coaxed from weather-beaten, jury-rigged instruments. It's that off-kilter, almost microtonal aspect of true blues tonality that is too often overlooked by cover artists and wanna-bes who reduce the music to three chords and the truth. Guitarist Jon Catler and the other members of Willie McBlind work near-miracles in bringing that raw aspect of the blues sound to the forefront.

In this case, Catler's instrument isn't a well-worn pawn-shop acoustic guitar, but rather a highly specialized tool that could come off as a cheap gimmick—or sound like crap—in the wrong hands. Catler plays a 64-note Just Intonation guitar, using close frets and fine tuning to wedge 64 separate tones into the space of an octave normally occupied by the 12 tones of the Western scale. The authenticity of Catler's vision and mission are made clear from the first few bars of "13 O'Clock Blues," where a slightly odd vibe of something amiss quickly evolves into serious blues power. This ain't just some white guy with a new toy; Catler knows his stuff and conveys it with deep energy and conviction. His fretless guitar work is equally convincing.

It helps, too, that Catler has a rough, saw-edged voice that complements both his playing and the smoother tones of bandmate Babe Borden. Bassist Neville L'Green and drummer Lorne Watson provide tight backup for the two lead voices, in typically rollicking blues-band style. They give the impression of a band that has been working the road for years. Borden's finest achievement is her ability to match Catler's microtones without flaw or hesitation. She is fully her own woman, never trying to emulate Etta James, Koko Taylor or anyone else.

Most of the compositions are Catler's originals, with a few expected covers thrown in. Of the new tunes, "13 O'Clock Blues," "Blood Moon," and the hellacious title track are the highest points, but there's no real filler to be found here. Blind Willie Johnson's "Nobody's Fault But Mine," somewhat overdone by everyone from Led Zeppelin to Christian rockers The 77s, manages to sound fresh again in Willie McBlind's collective hands. Ditto Robert Johnson's classic "Stones in my Passway" and Willie Dixon's lesser-known "It Don't Make Sense," where Catler and Borden again pull off the almost ancient spirit of the blues.

Of all the contemporary "white-guy" blues bands making the circuit today, of all the guitar icons that have gearheads and shredders clamoring for more, Jon Catler and Willie McBlind represent a major step forward in the evolution of American blues. Yet they do so without losing any of the music's heart, which is perhaps the best achievement of all."

Track listing: 13 O'Clock Blues; Bad Thing; Primo; Blood Moon; Nobody's Fault But Mine; Storms; Stones in my Passway; It Don't Make Sense (You Can't Make Peace); One Lucky Man.

Personnel: Jon Catler: 64-tone Just Intonation and fretless guitars, voice; Babe Borden: voice; Neville L'Green: bass; Lorne Watson: drums, percussion; Hugh Pool: vocals (9).

Published: January 14, 2010
Style: Blues
-by Todd S. Jenkins - Todd S. Jenkins

"Blues Revue Magazine, Feb/March 2010"

CD Review: Willie McBlind - Bad Thing

"If you're a traditionalist who believes the only way to keep blues alive is to reprise songs in their original forms on acoustic instruments, you probably won't care much for this record. But if you're a musical evolutionist who thinks blues is an art form to be reinterpreted and reappraised, you'll find this second album from four-piece band Willie McBlind intriguing.

"Bad Thing" is a swirling, undulating jam session and a sizzling conflagration of musical styles ranging from Aerosmith to John Coltrane to Willie Dixon. Take the album's opening instrumental, "13 O'Clock Blues": Though it follows the essential I-IV-V blues progression, guitarist Jon Catler's use of a unique microtuning technique gives the song a mildly dissonant sense of being out of balance. Similarly, the rhythmic vibe of the title cut bows to the more traditional elements of Johnny Winter, but the guitar and bass textures are Black Sabbath-like in their depth and weight.

"Primo" gives a proper taste of the rhythm section - bassist Neville L'Green and drummer Lorne Watson. Catler's guitar returns as the centerpiece on "Blood Moon," an indulgent, spooky number with guitar lines punctuated by Catler's vocal growl and singer Meredith Borden's mewl-and-howl harmonies. Borden's vocal dominates "Stones in My Passway," one of the album's funkier cuts: One minute she's uttering a deep, sensual moan, the next she's letting loose an earth-shattering scream. On the Robin Trower-esque "It Don't Make Sense," Borden's vocal soars with the long lines of Catler's guitar.

The album is sufficient in its production values and workman-like in its mix. Producer Catler does yeoman's work behind the board, presenting a soundstage that's well-suited to the record's musicality. Bad Thing might not be earth-shattering, but as an evolutionary approach to the blues, laced with elements of jazz harmonies and hard-rock instrumentation, it's worth a listen."
-by Michael Verity - Michael Verity

"REVIEW OF BAD THING by Stephen Bailey, Hoboken, NJ - Cultural Exchange Advocate"

Posted on 08/28/10 in Recordings

"A deceivingly simple blues facade combined with unnerving, microtonal cliffhangers around every measure. Listen to the title track.

Buy Now: Bad Thing (Amazon MP3)

I have always had a soft spot for well-conjured dissonance in music. My philosophy as a player is that, if the instruments are in tune, all else is fair game. What we were taught in school was less music theory than music law.

Those strict, hardbound sets of how things must be have never appealed to me. Even in the area of Jazz, which has sadly been whitewashed into a given style rather than the free-form expression it was meant to be. So finding folks who work to expand horizons thrills me.

Recently I met Meredith 'Babe' Borden of the band Willie McBlind. We got on the subject of microtonal music and she handed me the band's CD called 'Bad Thing'. As she described to me what they did, how the guitar and vocals interacted, I couldn't wait to hear it.

Straight-ahead blues only describes it in the broadest sense. The sound has a deceivingly simple facade that's combined with unnerving tonal cliffhangers around every measure. The familiar warps quickly with the unexpected.
There are different ways to achieve a microtonal sound on a guitar. Using slides, scalloping necks, going fretless, pounding the shit out of a tremolo bar, electronic manipulation, etc. All of which are acceptable in my book, if done right.

Willie McBlind guitarist Jon Catler's achieves his sound with the help of a 12-Tone Ultra Plus Guitar. The guitar's tuning system starts with the familiar 12-fret octave in place. Then it adds 12 more frets in between at the natural harmonic points. This now gives that same 12-tone octave the potential for 36 different pitches.

I know, I just got chills too.

Add the shear power of Babe's operatic vocal style waltzing around the rich fullness of the guitar and the solid foundation of the bass and drums and it's a compelling sound to say the least. Do yourself a favor, Buy 'Bad Thing' and go see Willie McBlind live." - www.stephenbailey.com

"Blues You Can Use"

"New York City-based guitarist-composer Jon Catler and singer Meredith “Babe” Borden are on the short list of the most striking blues musicians performing today. Catler’s artful use of his 12-Tone Ultra Plus Guitar and 64-Tone Just Intonation and Fretless guitars in the service of his Just Intonation system of tuning--the underappreciated pitches that fall between the notes of the familiar Western scale--along with Borden’s authoritative three-octave voice are crucial to the fresh, vibrant blues conjured up by their acclaimed band, Willie McBlind with Neville L’ Green on bass and Lorne Watson on drums.

Catler is a world-class guitarist. Rolling Stone’s David Fricke noted: “In the extended improv-reveries of guitarist Jon Catler you hear the same blue-note pitch swerves that have been the poetry in motion of guitarists from Son House to Jimi Hendrix.” The late esteemed critic-producer Robert Palmer observed: “Jon Catler has integrated his Berklee chops, microtonal intonation, and idiomatic blues feel into a radically original voice.” The January 2008 issue of Guitar Player featured the Ultra Plus, judging it was “well-made, wildly innovative…a pretty amazing thing to experience.”

Accolades from the music press, too, have been heaped on Willie McBlind’s debut album, Find My Way Back Home. All Music Guide noted, “[The album’s] well worth exploring if one is seeking something fresh and unconventional from blues-rock,” while DownBeat, among other media outlets in North America and Europe, used the word “stunning” in its laudatory review in their January 2008 issue. Radio stations from Connecticut to Alaska, Minnesota down to Texas, and throughout Europe, have given substantial airplay to tracks on Find My Way Back Home.

The psychedelic electric Delta blues so astutely and convincingly performed by Catler and Borden, two connoisseurs of pitch, bodes well for the blues future, indeed. Willie McBlind is one of the few risk-taking bands contradicting the often voiced notion that stagnation has spread across the entirety of blues and that the loss of so many key figures in recent years has left the 12-bar music in a moribund state. Catler and Borden reach the high bar of exquisitely nuanced blues feeling on Find My Way Back Home and in concerts at leading NYC venues like The Cutting Room, Makor, C-Note, and Le Bar Bat.

Catler understands the direct connection to the rich blues past. “If you look at the early masters of microtonal blues, Robert Johnson and Charley Patton,” he says, “these guys were really masters of pitches and rhythm to a subtle degree that just got lost over the years.” He continues, “After Patton and Johnson, blues became hammered out to a 12-bar pattern and the notes became sort of standardized. You could bend in between them, of course, but we lost some of the subtlety of that old language.”

Catler and Borden’s remarkable restoration work isn’t a sudden, accidental occurrence. “Where we come from is as important as who we are,” says Borden. She explains that she listened closely to blues-rock and opera growing up in central Massachusetts, and she had college musical training that now profits her blues investigations. “My [operatic three octave] range that I’ve developed through classical training at the New England Conservatory of Music has really influenced my singing as a blues singer.”

In turn, Catler found his life work after happening upon a microtonal guitar as a student at Berklee College of Music in the late-1970s. “Before I got that microtonal guitar, I couldn’t understand why I was hearing this beautiful pitch but I didn’t have a fret for it,” he recalls. “That was really the start of my realizing that that we didn’t have all the notes that we needed on the guitar—there were other notes that had magical qualities that were hidden from us.”

In 1981, Catler introduced himself to world-renowned contemporary classical composer La Monte Young after attending a long, epic performance of Young’s “The Well-Tuned Piano.” His mental image of the show remains vivid: “You’d look at his fingers, sometimes they were so fast, it was a blur. But other times he was so slow, he’d put his hands down by his side and just play these notes and let them ring. I’d never seen anybody play so fast and so slow in one song. And his melodies were just incredible.” Soon after, Young and Catler began working together.

The 1990s found NYC-based Catler, originally from the Greater Boston area, performing with Young’s Forever Bad Blues Band at sold-out venues in North America and Europe, and recording a well-received double-album on the Gramavision label. Droning sound washes swept along overtones and harmonics for 2-3 hours at FBBB shows; Catler’s guitar and Young’s synthesizers (simulating a specially tuned piano) plus bass and drums lulled listeners into a trance one instant and startled them with a sonic onslaught the next. “We’d pull into town and play one song,” he recalls. “We were the only band that could do that. It was such a great experience.” The Catler-Young creative affiliation continues to the present day, with the guitarist playing FreeNote Fretless Sustainer Guitar in his mentor’s Just Alap Raga Ensemble.

It was in 1993 when Catler and Borden joined artistic forces in NYC. The premise of their initial project called Birdhouse was microtonal transcriptions of bird songs; they imaginatively married blues, avant-garde art song and the piano-orchestral birdsong inquiries of modern classical mystic Olivier Messiaen. The team next founded an electric version of Birdhouse, delving into heavy metal rock expression.

“Whenever Meredith and I would rehearse with any band,” says Catler, “we would warm up to some blues stuff and we gravitated to that because it could hold so much. We could make it avant-garde, make it heavy or light blues.” Borden agrees: “With blues we found a way that we could expand and take all the elements that we’ve developed so far—improvisational Birdhouse music and the heavy electric--then mix it all together and come up with a blues fusion—‘blusion.’”

Willie McBlind, which started up in 2004, opens Borden to creative possibilities while posing new challenges. “I particularly find that I’m really learning so much about being a singer now. I thought the most difficult mode of singing was singing Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” aria, a virtuosic pinnacle with its use of coloratura [use of rapid trills, scales, etc.], but the things Jon is teaching me about are much harder than singing a high F.”

Their blues is NYC urban. “Everything’s resonance, everything’s energy,” Borden says. “The harmonic system that we use is based on tuning into the hum because that’s the most predominate energy in an urban society, 426.7 hertz cycle, as opposed to an earth energy.”

Besides Willie McBlind, Catler and Borden have been busy with the 13 O’Clock Blues Band. Borden says, “Now we’re getting into a new aspect of the blues, getting down to the rhythmic component, exposing the harmonic element of rhythm. Blues is a hot bed of a place where you can develop all these ideas.” Catler adds: “It’s a blues project, but it’s really different. Meredith doesn’t sing. She plays autoharp. There are a couple different guitar players. It’s all instrumental and we play one piece, ‘Parallel Blues,’ for an hour, and we are using Nature’s first complete scale based on the 8th through 16th Harmonic. Each harmonic has its own rhythm.”

Catler approaches the 13 O’Clock project with characteristic enthusiasm: “It’ll take me a lifetime to understand ‘Harmonic Rhythm.’ I find it so fascinating. It’s as important as the Just Intonation pitches. The way pitch and rhythm are fused is hidden but it shouldn’t be because it’s such a building block of everything.”

Like Catler, Borden knows digging down into the grit of blues to reveal its awesome melodic, harmonic and rhythmic shadings requires dedication and resolve. “Finding the emotion, the simmer, in blues is deep and challenging,” she shares, “so that’s my personal journey as a singer. I can easily travel this road for the rest of my life and still have a huge amount more to learn as a singer.”

Seldom has the combined learning process of two stellar blues artists been so fascinating to hear. Stay tuned."
-by Frank-John Hadley - Frank-John Hadley - 2007 Blues Foundation Keeping the Blues Alive (KBA) awardee (Journalism)

"All Music Guide, www.allmusic.com"

Critic's Review:
"When an artist has a name like Willie McBlind, one naturally assumes that the artist is a bluesman--and sure enough, blues-rock prevails on Find My Way Back Home. Willie McBlind, however, is not the name of a solo artist but rather, the name of a band; there isn't an individual named Willie McBlind who performs on this album any more than there was an individual named Lynyrd Skynyrd (who performed on "Free Bird" and "Sweet Home Alabama") or an individual named Jethro Tull who recorded an album named Aqualung. But the "band with a name that sounds like a solo artist" gimmick isn't the thing that makes Find My Way Back Home memorable; the thing that makes this 53-minute CD memorable is Willie McBlind's intriguing sound. Led by singer/guitarist Jon Catler and singer Meredith "Babe" Borden, Willie McBlind favors an unorthodox style of psychedelic blues-rock that is surprisingly artsy and quirky. The person who does the most to make Find My Way Back Home unusual is Borden; while Catler favors a gruff, Howlin' Wolf-ish vocal style that isn't unusual for blues-rock, Borden often hits the high notes in a way that suggests experimental jazz singers such as Sheila Jordan, Barbara Sfraga and Judi Silvano rather than a traditional blues belter like Koko Taylor or Ruth Brown. Borden, in fact, would probably fit right in on a Jackie McLean tribute project. Nonetheless, Willie McBlind shows plenty of blues grit on an album that draws on influences ranging from Robert Johnson to John Lee Hooker to Jimi Hendrix. Willie McBlind has no problem being both rootsy and artsy on this promising disc, which is well worth exploring if one is seeking something fresh and unconventional from blues-rock." - Alex Henderson

"PRESS RELEASE: Acclaimed Willie McBlind Band Releases Second Harmonic Blues Album"

Acclaimed Willie McBlind Band Releases Second Harmonic Blues Album Bad Thing

“Plenty of blues grit”—All Music Guide
“Poetry in motion”—Rolling Stone
“Rejuvenating the blues”—Hudson Current (N.J.)

"The Willie McBlind band’s timing is consummate. In this stagnant decade for the blues, with most of the idiomatic action sadly relegated to the obituary column, the New York City-based quartet fronted by virtuosic guitarist Jon Catler and talented singer Meredith “Babe” Borden offers a singularly exciting type of electric blues. Willie McBlind uses the pitches or tones found between the notes of the traditional Western scale to create a mesmerizing pitch-and-rhythm vernacular Catler calls “Harmonic blues.” Behind the entertainment, attentive listeners feel a fervid creative intelligence and a heart present in the microtonal blues of the new Willie McBlind album, Bad Thing--set for release on June 1, 2009, courtesy of FreeNote Records. In addition to Jon and Babe, Neville L’Green plays fretless bass and Lorne Watson adds drums and percussion. Guest Hugh Pool sings on one track.

Certainly no one knows the music better than Jon and Babe: “On this new CD, we have developed our approach to Harmonic Blues and taken it to a new level. The songs are more hard-hitting [than those of our previous album, 2007’s Find My Way Back Home], with more range in vocals and dynamics. There are adventurous arrangements of songs by blues heavyweights, and a couple of the songs also have some strong political/social undercurrents. Several were mixed by legendary producer Jim Gaines [whose extensive credits include Stevie Ray Vaughan and Santana albums].This release is dark and explosive, and energized by the experiences, gigs, and traveling the band has done since the release of the first CD.”

Paramount to Willie McBlind’s Harmonic Blues sound are Jon’s Harmonically re-tuned fretted and fretless guitars, all fascinatingly tuned to the 64-tone Just Intonation system. Pitches and intervals (the difference between two pitches) are the crux of Jon’s fascinating artistry, with his microtonal guitars modulating to different keys while sounding more or less in tune. His open tuning gets results, wondrous results, similar to modal Indian music, to John Coltrane’s sonic explorations, and to the psychedelic trance-music of the 1960s and recidivist jam-band present. There’s something of Otis Taylor’s droning blues to it also. Remarkably, Jon’s bottom-line aesthetic is both traditional and radical: he’s connecting with the subtle microtonal guitar sounds achieved by past pitch-and-rhythm masters Robert Johnson and Charley Patton. For good reason then, Willie McBlind’s Harmonic Blues is also known as “Electric Delta Blues.”

On Bad Thing, Babe’s three-octave singing now has something of the miraculous to it, and the unearthly aspect is her ability to enunciate words in a way that taps into the immediacy of Jon’s guitar playing and singing. “Finding the emotion, the simmer, in blues is challenging and that’s my own personal journey as a singer,” she says, having been raised up on opera and Aerosmith blues-rock. “I can easily travel this road for the rest of my life and still have a huge amount more to learn as a singer.” Monitoring her learning process pays off in dividends—Babe always cuts straight to the soul.

Bad Thing’s blue-ribbon program—consisting of six original compositions and three covers-- runs 47 minutes with nary a throwaway moment. The opening instrumental, “13 O’ Clock Blues,” sets a provocative groove while having an historic aspect. Catler explains, “Willie McBlind shows that, for the first time in music, the 13th Harmonic of each blues chord represents the new limit of consonance.” The edgy jump-blues “Bad Thing,” one of four numbers mixed by Gaines in Memphis, shows how flawlessly and naturally Catler unleashes his lava-flow of guitar vocabulary as Babe intones fractured epigrams like “train I ride off the track/cream don’t rise to the top” that stand as wry political/social commentary. Inspired by a visit to a horse’s stall (!), “Primo” rides hard with the bass line kicking against super-chromatic sliding guitar chords; the guitar-produced Harmonic Cloud that envelops the song near its end sure sounds like a mysterious sonic blessing from Jimi Hendrix.

The equally compelling “Blood Moon,” based on a Mississippi Fred McDowell tune, with vocals by Jon and Babe, finds the band conjuring a wild musical-emotional climate appropriate for the song protagonist’s hard choice on whether to leave someone behind or stick around though one’s situation is precarious. Blind Willie Johnson’s old-as-sin “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” is transmogrified into a modern blues-guitar piece de resistance complete with fond nods to Johnson’s slide playing on the original recording. Jon and Babe mention that “Storms”—still another Just Intonation guitar stunner--“tells the story of people’s resilience while in the midst of navigating personal turbulence and loss.” There’s plenty of vocalized and instrumental “dark clouds rolling” before Babe sings at the chorus like a shining ray of hope. She reveals she “felt the presence of a recently departed loved one speaking through the guitar solo.”

The world would be a better place without all the lame renditions of great Robert Johnson songs in creation; fortunately, the four Willie McBlind band members seize “Stones in My Passway” as their own without sacrificing the essence of the original recording. The passion and conviction of Babe’s vocal matches up well with the dogged earnestness slammed out by Jon, Lorne, and Neville. The guitar solo is thrilling to hear. Willie Dixon’s “It Don’t Make Sense” (You Can’t Make Peace)” shows its durability and capacity for storing new emotional nuances in Willie McBlind’s treatment; Babe applies her personal stamp to this performance with assurance, every bit as secure as the rest of the band in evoking a state of war by song’s finish. A measured rumination over an ailing man’s last request to see his beloved again, “One Lucky Man” impresses as much for Hugh’s intimate singing as it does for Jon’s typically inventive guitar investigation, here in a lyrical mood.

Internationally recognized musician and composer Jon Catler may well be the most innovative blues guitarist active today. His keen interest in microtonal guitar and Just Intonation dates back decades to his Berklee College of Music days. Jon was mentored by the storied avant-bluesman/composer La Monte Young, performing in La Monte’s Forever Bad Blues Band on American and European tours; these days, Jon performs alongside La Monte in the Just Alap Raga Ensemble. Jon is the author of The Nature of Music, which has had several printings, and he founded FreeNote Records, whose CD catalog includes two Willie McBlind titles, the Catler Brothers’ Crash Landing, his Evolution for Electric Guitar and Orchestra, and a collection of microtonal transcriptions of birdsong named Birdhouse. He has performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival, at Quebec’s Festival d’Ete, at Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, and, among other venues, at various NYC clubs. Among many other projects, Jon organized the 2008 Blue Apple Blues Festival, held at Crash Mansion on The Bowery.

Meredith “Babe” Borden has been a featured singer in the premieres of works by Meredith Monk, Philip Glass, and Scott Wheeler, respectively. She’s been featured in settings like the American Festival of Microtonal Music, the Queen’s Chamber Band, the globe-trotting rock musical troupe Hair, the opera Waking in New York (as gospel-blues singer Compassion), off-Broadway theatrical and touring groups, as well as numerous regional and summer stock companies. Along with the two Willie McBlind albums, Babe also sang lead on the Birdhouse and Evolution for Electric Guitar and Orchestra albums. Originally from Massachusetts, like Jon, Babe has been a charter member of Willie McBlind since the first gigs in 2004.

Lorne Watson and Neville L’ Green are skilled musicians in a variety of genres but possess a special flair for Jon and Babe’s Harmonic Blues. Before settling in Brooklyn, Lorne studied with widely respected music teacher Robert Hohner at Central Michigan University and worked with the microtonal Stone Crazy Blues Band and others in Seattle. Among his many projects is Loop 2.4.3., an avant-classical percussion duo. Originally from Sydney, Neville L’Green made a name for himself in Down Under music circles before relocating to NYC several years ago. As with Lorne, he is in demand for all sorts of work, but nothing quite like Willie McBlind."

– by Frank-John Hadley
2007 Blues Foundation Keeping the Blues Alive (KBA) awardee (Journalism)


Distribution: CD and CD downloads may be purchased at www.microtones.com and www.cdbaby.com.
- Frank-John Hadley

"Rolling Stone Magazine"

"In the extended improv-reveries of guitarist Jon Catler you hear the same blue-note pitch swerves that have been the poetry in motion of guitarists from Son House to Jimi Hendrix." - David Fricke

"Robert Palmer"

"Jon Catler has integrated his Berklee chops, microtonal intonation, and idiomatic blues feel into a radically original voice. The astonishing thing about his guitar tuning is that it pulls his sound and his ideas away from the manicured surfaces and glib articulation that often come with his kind of chops into a scrappier, more juke joint tonality." - noted critic / producer

"Blues-To-Do Monthly"

"For many, being a blues artist is a constant struggle between the desire to embrace a tradition while creating something truly original and modern. On their debut album, Find My Way Back Home , Willie McBlind takes this approach to a level that few artists in the blues realm have explored. The band, co-led by guitarist/vocalist Jon Catler and vocalist Babe Borden is a re-invention of the lost and little known tradition of the male/female blues duet tradition best exemplified by pre- World War artists such as Blind Willie Johnson and Blind Willie McTell and their various accompanists. Willie McBlind also breaks the mold of the Western Twelve Tone Equal Tempered scale by using instruments based on Nature's scale, a 64 note per octave musical system based on notes directly derived from the Harmonic Series. Catler's compositions in this tuning system create a truly unique aural experience, introducing true consonances, microtonal variations, and magical cascading harmonic clouds.
The album starts off with an instrumental, Chicken, that features a riff reminiscent of the 60's organ trio classic, Back at the Chicken Shack and features Catler's custom guitar, with its unique fretting system that features the aforementioned 64 note octave. The end of the tune introduces the magic of the tuning system with a long sustained chord that is both consonant and dissonant at the same time. Canonballer, is a take on a musical canon (a composition that employs a melody with one or more imitations of the melody played after a given duration) and features interchanging vocables and guitar lines. Catler and Borden alternate vocal verses on the slow blues grind of Find My Way which also features a haunting guitar solo and long sustained vocal choruses. Hope My Baby, the first of two boogie tracks on the recording, once again finds Catler and Borden exchanging vocal verses and features the 12 Tone Ultra Plus guitar, which is constructed in a way that has some of the notes from Nature's Scale in combination with the normal western12 Tone Equal Tempered Scale. Shallow Gray is a slow blues and features an extended "cloud section" during the solo break.
Pony Blues , a Charley Patton number and the 6th track on the cd, starts out as a country blues and then morphs into an all out country western hoe down before winding back down. Train is a strait ahead blues rocker featuring my favorite Borden vocal performance of the ten songs. Fall features fretless guitar which is unaccompanied at the beginning and also featured in an extended 60's psychedelic inflected solo during this heavy riff oriented tune. Every Time, another musical canon form, features haunting interplay between Catler's guitar and Borden's voice and an outstanding guitar solo break. Time Ain't Long, the closer of the set, features an extended feedback drenched "cloud" section on the 12 Tone Ultra Plus before morphing into an anthematic blues rocker.
I found this album a very enjoyable listen. While the tuning system is quite different than most western ears are accustomed to there's a familiar feeling, like meeting a family member for the first time. The wide range of blues styles, along with the adventurous and oftentimes otherworldly guitar and vocals make this a transcending blues and musical experience."
- Chris Morda

"Review of BAD THING - 4 STARS!! - August 2010"

Review of Willie McBlind's CD, BAD THING
DownBeat Magazine
August 2010

by Frank-John Hadley

**** (4 stars)

No other blues band in creation sounds like the one fronted by microtonal (notes-between-the-notes) guitarist Jon Catler and New England Conservatory-trained singer Meredith Borden. Their exhilarating approach to "Harmonic Blues" on adventurous originals and typically skewed arrangements of lesser-known Delta classics connect with the tonal and rhythmic subtleties in the language of Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson. - DownBeat Magazine

"Review of FIND MY WAY BACK HOME - January 2008"

January 2008
by Frank-John Hadley
***1/2 (three and a half stars)

"Maverick guitarist Jon Catler's electric blues band project features his alternate-tuned microtonal music, the natural result of his fascinating use of the notes between the notes of standard tuning. Relying on his self-designed 64-tone "Just Intonation" and 12-tone "Ultra Plus" guitars, he illuminates a sweet-sour lyricism on the stunning track 'Every Time' and attains new,
beautiful-sounding chords on 12-bar blues 'Chicken.' As an occasional singer, Catler's affected yet lightly appealing nasality acts as a foil to Babe Borden's fearless vocal flights. No tenderhorn or dilettante, the guitarist honed his creative instincts working with avant-gardist La Monte Young's Forever Bad Blues Band." - DownBeat Magazine


On National Train Day, May 12, 2012, Willie McBlind released its third CD, LIVE LONG DAY, heralded by one critic as being "a musical masterpiece" (Musikreviews.com). Willie McBlind has pulled out all the stops for their third record poised to take them over the top of the blues world and beyond. The band finds its sound rooted in the Mississippi Delta and expands into the power of the Harmonic Series with microtonally fretted and fretless guitars and scorching vocals that catapult Willie McBlind into the future of blues. Fronted by the world's leading Harmonic guitarist, Jon Catler, and vocalist Babe Borden, Willie McBlind has been featured on festivals ranging from King Biscuit Blues Festival on the Mississippi River, to Bourbon Street Blues Festival in New Jersey. Willie McBlind’s first 2 CD’s – Find My Way Back Home and Bad Thing – have received extensive airplay on stations spanning from California to Connecticut, and abroad. All the songs on this new CD pay tribute to the train in a journey that starts with “Sittin’ in the Train Station” and culminates in the mysterious Train Cloud that ushers out the CD on “The Train That Never Came”.

In 2009, Willie McBlind released its second CD, the critically acclaimed BAD THING. The CD has gotten great response from DJ’s around the globe from France to Texas and glowing reviews from well-respected magazines such as Downbeat Magazine, Blues Revue and All About Jazz. Downbeat's 4 star review of the CD in August 2010 encapsulated their work as "...exhilarating." Bad Thing has been rousing audiences with standout cuts that include the high-octane title track “Bad Thing”, “13- O’Clock Blues” and the potent and evocative medley “Blood Moon” and “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” which pays homage to Mississippi Fred McDowell and Willie McBlind’s namesake, Blind Willie Johnson. Much of the CD was mixed by legendary producer Jim Gaines (Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan).

Willie McBlind's debut CD released in 2007, FIND MY WAY BACK HOME, with cover art by legendary San Francisco artist Victor Moscoso, features 10 songs which are mostly original works and all arranged by Jon Catler. The original song “Hope My Baby,” which was inspired by the feel of Sonny Boy Williamson's great 'King Biscuit Time' sides. It tells the story of a guy on his way to see his girl: he's hoping she doesn't want to "talk," while she's hoping that he's gonna hear what she has to say. He's hoping she won't cry when she finds out he's cheated, while she's hoping he's not gonna "fall." In the end, he's hoping she'll call him, while she hopes he'll see, now that she's gone.
On the song “Shallow Gray,” the singer is telling her loved one that the day will come when she no longer walks the earth.

Willie McBlind has received radio airplay and charted on stations spanning from Alaska to Florida to France. Radio play includes John Schaefer's New Sounds on WNYC (NYC), Paul Fischer's "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" on WBAI (NYC), live appearance on Sonny Payne's 'King Biscuit Time' (Helena, AR), KSDS (San Diego), WUSB (NY), Doc Sigmier's 'Sonic Gumbo' on KHEN (Colorado), 'Smokestack Lightnin' show' on WUCF (Florida), WHUS, WECS, WCNI and WVOF (Connecticut), WBOR (Maine), KCOR (Mark Kerr’s Road Rash Blues Show), KTEP (Texas), "Full-Time Blues" on WUEV (Indiana), WEFT (Illinois), Norm Rosen's 'Saturday Night Fish Fry' on WICN (Massachusetts), among numerous others, as well as play on cable TV shows Mantra TV and CACE International.

Principle players Jon Catler and Babe Borden have appeared on dozens of CD's, from EVOLUTION FOR ELECTRIC GUITAR AND ORCHESTRA (FreeNote) to LA MONTE YOUNG AND THE FOREVER BAD BLUES BAND (Gramavision). Tracks can be heard at: http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/WillieMcBlind



Frank-John Hadley of Downbeat Magazine says: “Willie McBlind, the New York City-based quartet fronted by virtuosic guitarist Jon Catler and talented singer Meredith ‘Babe’ Borden are on the short list of the most striking blues musicians performing today.” Their second CD, Bad Thing, has been recognized by Downbeat Magazine as one of the BEST CD'S OF 2010 in their January 2011 issue. Willie McBlind harnesses the blues like no other band by using custom built fretless and refretted guitars that allow access to blue notes not found on standard instruments, thus fueling the band's fresh new approach to blues and music and placing Willie McBlind at the cutting edge of sound. The band is led by Jon Catler, the world's leading Harmonic guitarist and member of La Monte Young’s Forever Bad Blues Band since 1990, and Babe Borden, known for her multi-octave soaring vocal acrobatics, whose past experience includes performing in the European touring company of HAiR and work with performance pioneers like Meredith Monk in NYC. Catler and Borden have combined forces in this band to present a dynamic and powerful stage show. Willie McBlind has performed in festivals ranging from the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival in Helena, AR on the banks of the Mississippi to the headlining act of the Blue Apple Blues (B.A.B.) Festival on the lower east side of NYC at Crash Mansion. Regional appearances include Inn on the Blues in York Beach, Maine and C-Note at Nantasket Beach on Boston's South Shore. The experienced rhythm section of Mat Fieldes (Absolute Ensemble, Joe Jackson, Steve Vai, Ornette Coleman) and Lorne Watson (Loop 2.4.3., The Stone Crazy Blues Band), adds dimension and emphasis to the mix. Willie McBlind is a band that can satisfy real blues fans and also appeal to a brand new audience. Primal rhythms and ear-catching melodies lead to cavernous chords which, when sustained, can evoke Clouds over the Delta. The forces of Nature are brought into play and evolve into an overwhelming live experience - the result is a modern electric Delta Blues sound that is part tradition and part innovation.