Friday, January 29, 1994

By Seth Rogovoy Special to the Eagle

POWNAL, Vt. Imagine a piano style that incorporates equal parts Jerry Lee Lewis and Elton John at his recidng best, crossed with an artistic sensibility that combines equal parts Talking Heads and the Doers, and you have a rough idea of where to locate Wild Bill on the musical map. Wild Bill is the fitting stage name of Bill Wampler, a singer, songwriter and keyboard player from Otis, who has released a four-song album called “Premontion.” The album opens with signature piano chords declaring a syncopated beat, followed by rolling, boogie-woogie bass notes in the left hand. The right hand then breaks out into a frantic, Jerry Lee Lewis-style solo, which strongly contrasts with the minor key melody that follows on the song, “Hello Sweetheart.”

Bill's vocals have a leering, demonic quality to them which earns him the moniker “Wild.' His lyrics, too, are suggestive, rife with double entendres, but gently humorous far the most part. But to Wild Bill's ultimate credit it is his music that is most suggestive. The arrangements on “Premonition” are surprisingly simple, almost minimal in this age of high-tech production. Accompanying Bill's keyboards - which are programmed to sound almost, but not quite, like a real piano - is a simple lineup of bass, drums and guitar.

The music is full of Bill's rich, boogie-based keyboard playing, with lots of minor chords. The guitar is used mostly for rhythmic backup, with occasional solos echoing Bill's own. This mix works best on the hypercharged, Talking Heads-like “Thinkin' Things.”

The raucous vitality of Bill's piano contrasts with the lyric's simplicity: Things that make us friends/Things we need to say/Things that we can think of/ Think of it/Thinkin' things, things, things…”

The title track works in a similar way, contrasting simple lyrics - "I can feel it/ I can see it/See it coming/I can tell you my prediction/Premonition" - with energetic. muscular rock 'n' roll.

Some rough edges

When Bill slows down the pace, as on the wordy, jazzy, Doors-like "A Sight Too Right," some rough edges begin to show - his phrasing lacks grace, his pitch wavers, and a nasty undercurrent threatens to overwhelm the lyrics. Wild Bill is good, but he's no poet and he's no Jim Morrison – yet. But at his best, as on the anthemic "Premonition" and the herky-jerky “Thinkin' Things,” Bill is a true original - a strange and funny character with magic hands and a quirky sensibility.

Recorded in Dalton

'Premonition" was recorded at Derek Studios in Dalton, with owner Greg Steele manning the mixing boards. The album, available on cassette tape and CD, features John Wampler on drums, Jody Lampro on bass and Chip Lampro and Jay Fruet on guitars.