2015 finds New Jersey blues guitarist Billy Hector on top of his game. Hector has been plying his trade since the 70’s and it shows on a fine set that displays his undoubted abilities as a singer-songwriter-guitarist. The Hector story starts in the 70’s in a band called The Shots that became the house band at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park, where Springsteen and Southside Johnny started out, before a stint as guitarist for Hot Romance would lead to The Fairlanes and eventually he formed the Billy Hector Band in 1993. Musically Hector had found himself at ease with a range of styles from horn-driven R&B to bluesy rock and all of these influences are still recognisable on ‘Old School Thang’.
Hector is equally adept leading a power-trio or expanding the sound with horns, organ or piano. On the title track ‘Old School Thang’ the terrific work of the rhythm section of Sim Cain (drums) and Winston Roye (bass) is a highlight as they lay down a solid groove to allow Hector to stretch out with some terrifically funky lead lines that demonstrate his dexterity and Cain steps up to take a great solo. The much loved, and recorded, Don Nix blues standard ‘Goin’ Down’ is dusted off and receives a stormin’ rendition that stands comparison with the likes of Freddie King and Jeff Beck who popularised the song. The extended album closer ‘People of the World’ gives Hector room to stretch out on a slow burner of a tune with added funk from the horns of Steve Jankowski, Tommy Labella and Mel Taylor.
There is no danger of things getting predictable on this album as ‘Evil, Slick ‘N Sly’ lays down a nice slow groove with Hector taking on a guttural vocal that is reminiscent of early ZZ Top with a dash of Tom Waits while ‘Fake ID’ and ‘Come On Home’ highlight his slide guitar work and the later the harmonica of Ken Sorensen.
‘Old School Thing’ is an impressive album that covers the blues basics and goes beyond. The playing and the production by Hector and Suzan Lastovica (Mrs. Hector) are exemplary throughout making this a very enjoyable album that should appeal to a wide range of listeners.