Painting by Ralph Rumpelton
by Steve Kurutz
The great thing about a solo album from someone like Bill Wyman, of the Rolling Stones, is that quality musicianship and high-profile guest appearances are all but a given. The unfortunate aspect, though, is that the Stones bassist was never known for his songwriting. In the case of Monkey Grip, the first claim holds true (with guest appearances by Dr. John, Lowell George, and Leon Russell, the album is a solid affair musically), while the issue of Wyman‘s songwriting ability leaves the listener pleasantly surprised. Granted, there aren’t any moments where you ask yourself, “why didn’t this song appear on a Stones album?” but tracks such as “I Wanna Get Me a Gun,” “White Lightnin’,” and “I’ll Pull You Thro'” are propelled with a laid-back groove that is surprisingly catchy. And, unlike Wyman‘s famous stone-faced stage demeanor, his singing is loose and joy-filled. Though these types of albums can be self-absorbed affairs, Monkey Grip is meant to be a relaxed, unpretentious outlet for the compositions that would never see the light of day in Wyman‘s main band — and, as a credit to the bassist, it comes off exactly that way.