Andre Williams – Hoods and Shades

January 01, 1970

(Bloodshot)

 

www.bloodshotrecords.com

 

Now
far into its second decade, R&B kingpin Andre Williams’ late-life career
renaissance continues unabated with Hoods and Shades, an album that
features a notable, eye-opening collection of Detroit-based heavy duty players.
Of primary interest is guitar god Dennis Coffey, the man generally credited
with bringing high octane, psychedelic guitar to soul and funk music back in
the late 60s and early 70s on classic numbers by The Temptations,
Edwin Starr and numerous others. But also on hand: Detroit-based
super-producers/musicians Don Was and Jim Diamond (both on bass), well-traveled
drummer Jim White and producer Matthew Smith (Nathaniel Mayer, Outrageous
Cherry, Volebeats), who also does double-duty on guitar. Phil “Greasy” Carlisi
(bass), Dave Shettler (Moog, backing vx) and Troy Gregory (backing vx) round it
out. 

 

That’s
a lot of fire-power from a lot of Detroit
funk and garage rock royalty, but Hoods and Shades is a pretty low-key
affair from start to finish. Perhaps Williams is starting to mellow a
bit,  but most likely he just wanted to make what he allegedly calls his
“folk record.” Some of the tracks feel a little skeletal and stripped down,
almost like demos, but that airy quality also gives them a bright clarity.
There’s as much acoustic guitar as electric, the drums are very low-key (sounds
like brushes over sticks), and the approach is somewhat subdued by Williams’
usual outlandish standards. At times I wished they’d taken advantage of all
that heat on hand to really crank it up and hit the loud and nasty spot that
Williams has been owning for several decades. But hey, Andre Williams has done
it all and can do exactly what he feels like. And even relatively mellow and
pensive Andre is still Andre…and he’s still The Man. 

 

Attitude
has always been Williams’ calling card (along with an unerring feel for greasy
R&B), and he’s still got it, although he’s clearly more wizened at this
point. This is a man who’s been around (and around and around) and survived to
tell the tales and assess what it all means. That’s evident right from the
get-go with the opening track, “Dirt,” a bouncy contemplation about the fact
that we all are, ultimately, just dirt. Like, cosmic dust; something
particulate but ephemeral.  Coffey rips off some nasty, bluesy leads on “A
Good Day to Feel Bad,” a cautionary tale of sorts. The title track, “Hoods and
Shades,” paints a pretty bleak picture of Williams’ (and Coffey, and Jim
Diamond and  Don Was) home town of Detroit, with a big portion of the
population out of work, living hard and walking around in the protective street
gear of hoods (hoodies) and shades. Coffey (presumably) shines again,
channeling ghetto despair with six strings. Old school, lascivious Andre shows
up on “Jaw Dropper” and “Gimmie,” extolling the virtues of desirable womanhood
as only he can. Perhaps the best is the swampy blues workout “Mojo Hannah,”
where Williams’ tale of backwoods juju meet’s Coffey’s humid wah wah as it
slithers and curls around like a water moccasin out looking for trouble. And
Williams’ tribute to fellow R&B legend Swamp Dogg, “Swamp Dogg’s Hot Spot”
is another cautionary tale wrapped up in a deeply atmospheric gnarl of acoustic
and electric guitars playing with and off each other. 

 

Andre
Williams, ladies and gentlemen: one of the last living links to the heyday of
dirty R&B, super-soul and first generation booty funk. And certainly one of
the few left who still brings it like he means it, every time. He’s as real as
it gets.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Mojo Hannah,” 
“Hoods and Shades,” “Dirt,”  “Swamp Dogg’s Hot Spot.” CARL HANNI

 

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