Willie West "Lost Soul" (Timmion TRCD-008) by Sir Shambling
The Devil Gives Me Everything; She's So Wise; Slow And Easy; Cold In The Storm; Lesson Of Love; I'm Aware Of What You Want; Down On Lover's Road; Gettin' Down; The Devil Gives Me Everything Part 2.
I’m an unashamed big fan of this really fine soul singer. His New Orleans recordings from the 60s have some superb deep ballads among them which you can read about and listen to here. To show just how versatile an artist he is, Willie is also a favourite of the funk crowd. To his great credit West held on through the dark days of disco and the bad times when robotic electronic music ruled the roost and has been in the singing business for just about 50 years now. He relocated to Minneapolis post Katrina and now that real music is back in favour again has been making some new music.
His latest CD release is this collaboration with the Finnish label Timmion whose house band the High Society Brothers provide the instrumentation over which Willie recorded the vocals back in his new adopted home town. Collectively the personnel also penned all the tracks on the set. The first thing to say is that this album is all about proper music – no limp wristed tinny synths here – including a strong horn section. And another good thing is that the tracks are pretty much downbeat. West doesn’t quite have that gospel roar of old but he certainly is still a master of timing and the nuances of his performances here warrant – and reward – repeated listening.
The set kicks off with the moody hypnotic “The Devil Gives Me Everything” and this spellbinding vein is also present on the lengthy “Slow And Easy” with its jazzy feel and good background harmonies. The beat ballad “She’s So Wise”, already out on a 45, provides a good change of pace. “Cold In The Storm” is amongst the most melodic items on the set, and the ballad “I’m Aware Of What You Want” with its tasty minor chords is a real treat. “Lesson Of Love” has a nice retro feel to it, as does the on-the-fours “Getting Down”.
If you’re expecting a reprise of West 60s work with Allen Toussaint you’re going to be disappointed here. No gospel chord progressions for example. But if you’re willing to embrace an updated classic soul sound, real instruments with a more modern approach you’ll find a lot to like. Timmion are to be congratulated for this release bringing a classic soul artist like Willie West into the 21st century, reminiscent of the way Bettye Lavette has updated her appeal to a new younger market. Let’s hope that Willie West can achieve a similar level of success with this set.
The album is released on November 10th, with the vinyl release housed in heavy cardboard vintage style LP sleeve.