Andre Williams

Andre Williams Is the Black Godfather (In the Red)

Andre Williams began his musical career as a novelty-tune R&B crooner in Detroit during the Fifties, penning and singing songs such as “Bacon Fat,” “Jail Bait,” and “The Greasy Chicken.” He went on to more songwriting and producing, working for Berry Gordy at Motown during its heyday, but a fondness for partying and smoking crack took its toll, and Andre did a bit of time on the streets. In recent years he has been rediscovered and resurrected as a sort of senior statesman for the indie-label garage/raw blues scene (or what passes for it now). In 1998 he recorded Silky for In the Red Records, with former Gories frontmen Dan Kroha and Mick Collins acting as producers. The result was a great record that successfully melded the Gories' garage stylings with Andre's gift for nasty invective. That the album was such a success artistically was something of a shock for anyone who was familiar with Williams's party-record output and the Gories' noisy skronk. The pairing of the two probably shouldn't have worked so well, but somehow it did.

Luckily Mick Collins is back on this one as executive producer. Collins is a story unto himself; his guitar work and singing with the Gories provided a template for Jon Spencer's success with his Blues Explosion. Here he pairs Williams with the right musicians by way of the aforementioned Blues Explosion, Memphis's Compulsive Gamblers, Cheater Slicks, the Countdowns, and Collins's own Dirtbombs. What's interesting is that the entire record sounds as though it was done by the same raw band, with Williams's alternately cruel and pleading vocals holding everything together. Williams provides nasty wit and expert vocal timing, but Collins stitches it together seamlessly with great playing and production.

Where Silky and last year's followup, Red Dirt, contained a few touching country songs, Godfather is much more funk- and groove-oriented. Williams's “softer” side makes an appearance here and there, but he expertly goes back and forth between his persona as a hapless, cuckolded older man and a vengeful pimp with no conscience. In other words he hits all the bad-ass Stagger Lee/Iceberg Slim marks that white America still loves to exalt and scorn. Since Williams wrote much of that book 40-plus years ago, it is a pleasure to see him still cranking out the same stuff in an undiminished and unrepentant manner.

 
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