Andre Williams

Andre Williams

Alive Naturalsound Records (0135-2)

By Georgetown Fats
October 2012

By supporting acts and talent who seem solely bent on pushing the boundaries of traditional radio-friendly music, it is tough to resist breaking out into a “happy dance” when a care package from Alive Naturalsound Records arrives in the mail box. The latest Alive Naturalsound Records release I have gotten my hands on, Life by Andre Williams, does very little to disappoint.

With a career dating back to the 1950’s, after a long and drawn-out battle with booze and drugs, Williams is now clean of both. Thankfully, the years of abuse did not rob the musician of his voice.

With his booming bass voice, Williams part sings and part speaks his lyrics throughout the whole release and creates a cool garage soul lounge vibe vocally. With his back-up band providing psychedelic blues backing tracks, Life is a refreshing combination of old-school soul meets lo-fi garage punk blues.

Life kicks off with “Stuck in the Middle,” a trance-inducing psychedelic soul song. “Stuck in the Middle” won’t impress with a complex rhyming scheme covering original themes, but Williams’ well worn-voice combined with the backing band’s trance groove is tough to ignore. Williams’ ability to create a slow and sleazy funk is a wonderful illustration to blues and soul vocalists on pathos. From the opening sounds of Williams heckling someone in the control room and trying to clear his dry mouth to the his falsetto as the song closes out, it is clear Williams has many stories to tell, and one can only hope that he can remember the tales over the decades of abuse.

On “Heels,” he speaks and sings his vocals about one of his apparently favorite predilections. Williams has the sense to skip all double entendres and pretenses, and makes all intentions well-known. The man knows what he likes and isn’t afraid to revel in his sleaze.

About my only complaint from the 10 tracks on Life is the crass marketing of “Blame it on Obama.” While I certainly do respect and appreciate both the musicality on the track, and find Williams’ own political commentary refreshing, releasing “Blame it on Obama” on 9/11 feels unseemly.

Originally written and produced for The Five Du-Tones in 1963, Williams includes a version of his standard “Shake a Tail Feather.” For those only familiar with the tune from Blues Brothers’ movies, be prepared to be amazed and astounded. With his low-fi backing band featuring producer Matthew Smith on guitar, piano, organ, trumpet and synthesizer, Jim Diamond on bass and David Shettler on drums, drum machine and synthesizer. Williams proves that while his liver, brain and lungs may be clean, his intentions on “Shake a Tail Feather” are quite dirty.

Once again kudos to Alive Naturalsound Records for supporting artists who want to challenge the boundaries of corporate contemporary blues. Having released disks by Left Lane Cruiser, T-Model Ford with GravelRoad and now Andre Williams, it is clear Alive Naturalsound Records fashions itself after Fat Possum Records-circa late 1990s.

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