At a time when most people in their mid seventies are retired and putting their feet up, ANDRE WILLIAMS, the Godfather of punk blues has come up with a classic smash. Andre has had a long and chequered career – he started as lead singer of ‘The 5 Dollars’ as far back as 1955, before co-writing Stevie Wonder’s first song, ‘Thank You For Loving Me’ before going on to pen the Blues/soul classic ‘Shake a Tail Feather’, which has been recorded by Ike & Tina Turner, Ray Charles and a host of others.
However, life did not always run smoothly, and Andre was even suffering poverty and homelessness during the 1980s. His fortunes changed during the late 1990s, and he released a clutch of albums featuring the sort of fuzz driven sleaze rock that opened his music up to a whole new generation.
2012 has been a productive year for Andre, with this album following on the heels of ‘Hoods and Shades’ which came out earlier in the year. ‘Life’, his latest offering is indeed what it says on the cover – a celebration of life and how we live it. Its' ups and downs, the lows and the highs. On ‘Life’, Andre is backed by Matthew Smith on guitar/ keys, David Shettler on drums, and Jim Diamond on bass. Opening with ‘Stuck in the Middle’, this album hits hard right from the start. This track, a loud, dirty guitar based blues really rocks. Andre’s vocals are really crisp and clear, as he shows how he’s between the Devil and the deep blue sea: -
“I’m just stuck in the middle, between a rock and a hard place/ I’ll be doomed if I do, I’ll be doomed if I don’t/ I don’t know if I will, I don’t know if I won’t...I’m just stuck in the middle.” After this comes ‘But’n’, which starts with a rather polite “Scuse me” before criticising people who but in all the time. This track has a savage guitar riff, which puts even The Sonics in the shade.
‘Don’t Kick My Dog’, is a slowed down grinding blues with a choppy guitar riff. Once again it’s a great song, with a backing that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Stooges ‘Fun House’: “Lookee here, listen to me. Now you can get away with most little things/ You can even steal my summer, steal my spring...No you can’t kick my dog.”
After this the mood changes slightly with ‘Blame it on Obama’, a song played firmly with tongue in cheek. This is a piano based slightly countrified track, which heaps blame for everything that goes wrong on the President! “Now the chickens stopped layin’ eggs. That’s a shame/ And a dollar aint worth a dime. Who’s to blame? And your wife is on the run, and she won’t give you none...Blame it on Obama.”
For me, however, the stand out track was ‘Shake A Tail Feather’. Although he may have written this some fifty years ago, Andre injects new life into the song, with his raunchy full throated blues roar. This is certainly heavier than any other version of the song I’ve ever heard. In fact Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers would have killed to have something this good on their album.
Overall, this is a magnificent album from a remarkable man who at seventy six is rocking louder and harder than most people half his age. More power to him I say!!!