Jason D. Williams – Killer Instincts

January 01, 1970

(Rockabilly Records)





From the looks of him, Jason Williams could certainly be kin
to Jerry Lee Lewis, a resemblance he addresses with opening gambit, “Like Jerry
Lee.” But with the next track, “Big Red Green One,” he opens the door to byways
unlikely to be taken by The Killer, although Lewis’ recent releases, Last Man Standing and Mean Old Man, answer prayers some of us
didn’t know we had with juicy remakes of fodder from the Rolling Stones,
Creedence, and others. Still, for all the blues and other influences a
musicologist could delineate, it’s basically rock ‘n’ roll and/or country.


Williams’ “Big Red Green One” is one satisfying helping of file
(as in gumbo)-spiked boogie-woogie. Unlike the Louisiana-based Lewis, Williams
hails from Memphis. In any case, there’s a thick drawl, along with blues,
seminal Dixieland, and various contemporary influences, winding through his
music. He’s a master keyboardist with the chops and creativity to reinterpret
or enlarge on just about anything that strikes his fancy. And man, that fancy
has balls: just when the party’s gettin’ underway, he brings out an original
about JFK and other unfortunates with “If You Ever Saw a Baby with Its Pud.”
The song’s stream-of-consciousness trajectory is explained rather handily by
the lyric, “I’ve rolled a few joints in my time.” But it takes more than an
intensive right-brain orientation to end lines like “If you’ve ever seen a
picture like that” with “…then you’ve seen me.”


Like so many American legends, Williams, who, as far as I
know – outside certain performing and grassroots radii – is not a legend, operates as a legend. And
a smart one: after the almost-quirky-as-Chris-Ligon submersion of “If You Ever
Saw,” he throws down the only bar band excellence that could stand up to NRBQ
at its zenith (with Al Anderson) with “You Look Like I Could Use a Drink.” It’s
rockin’ as hell, and in no hurry to get to the end because just bein’ here
feels so could, and glowing with good humor. His ants-in-the-pants roll through
rockabilly classic “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” is of similar tenor: this is
the kind of excitement fueling ‘50s teen rebellion flicks. It’s the kind of
restlessness that makes partners up and leave their spouses for no better
reason than the way the air feels, one certain night.


If those errant wanderers keep driving through Williams’
slightly funhouse world, they’ll end up in a roadhouse where the keyboard-spanker
dives into rabble-rousers like “Really Really Pretty” and “What am I Gonna Do.”
There’s even a gospel-fueled rave-up for the morning-after, or at least the
still-drunk dawn: “Sanctified.” Lest some of us start getting nervous, the
wryness associated with Randy Newman is in “Mr. Jesus.” A gravelly flare to Tom
Waits is sent up with the confessional, “Crippled Down,” and it would be no
huge surprise if Waits eventually shambled his way over to Williams’ piano
bench. If and when, he may be invigorated by a gorgeous wash of Big-Easy-tinged
woogie, “To Hell With You.”


Although he sometimes rocks like Jerry Lee, it would be a
shame if that were all Williams were known for, or for him not to become more
widely-known, period. Heck, the precocious tow-head deserves to go to France,
at least briefly, that he might endure some adulation. He cartainly dee-serves
to keep on makin’ music (no day job for this guy!). The question is: Does the
general public deserve HIM? At least his band mates all seem to be downing the
same brew: From the clarinetist to the tuba blower, along with more
conventional R&R players, it’s a superlative lot.


Red Green One,” “You Look Like I Could Use a Drink,” “Mr. Jesus,” “To Hell With
You,” “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” MARY LEARY

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