Monday, December 04, 2017

Wee Willie Walker & The Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra After A While

Wee Willie Walker & The Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra
After A While
Blue Dot Records

An encounter performing in Europe first brought together California guitarist and band leader Anthony Paule with deep soul-blues singer Wee Willie Walker. This has led to the present recording where the one-time Goldwax artist is backed by a full band led by Paule. I recently reviewed a live album from the Notodden Blues Festival with a band led by Kid Andersen, about which I concluded "Wee Willie Walker certainly has it still and this live recording suggests just how moving and powerful a performer he remains." Walker is also present on a recent recording by Austrian organist Raphael Wressnig & Brazilian guitarist Igor Prado singing several songs that were associated with the legendary Little Willie John.

The present recording opens with the Memphis soul-styled "Second Chance," with the rhythm of Paule, Tony Lufrano on keyboards, Paul Olguin on bass, and Derrick 'D'Mar' Martin on drums laying down a form base for Walker's church-rooted singing with brassy horns. It was written by Christine Vitale, who contributed to several other songs including the title song and a performance (including the horn arrangements and Charles McNeal's wonderful tenor sax solo that evokes Little Willie John and other legends). Walker recorded George Jackson's "I Don't Want To Take A Chance," as a demo 50 years ago, but gets to record it anew for this marvelous rendition that again conjures up the classic R&B era of the 50s and early 60s. His soulful phrasing is supported by the handsome playing and Paule adds some nice chords and fills. Then we get a little big band treatment of the Lil Green classic "In the Dark," strongly sung in a manner that Little Willie John might have done it, and Paule takes a strong guitar solo in a jazzy-blues vein on this superb performance.

The message song "Hate Take a Holiday," has its call for love to take out hate, and folks of all colors and creed walk together in peace. teh recording has organ grease and a somewhat spare rhythm backing. It is followed by the Tex-Mex tinged romantic ballad, "Thanks For the Dance," with Paule on acoustic guitar on a song with a feel of a Drifters recording. There is a bit of Muscle Shoals funk underlying "If Only," while the soul ballad "Cannot Be Denied," is a lovely blue ballad. Both of these were written by Walker with Vitale and Paule. There is a stunning cover of a Little Willie John recording, "Look What You've Done To Me (not the Boz Scaggs song)," with brilliant playing from trumpeter Tom Poole and trombonist Derek James. Vitale and Paule's original "I Don't Want To Know," is a superb original blues in this same vein with a choice jazzy Paule solo.

After a punchy instrumental, "The Willie Walk," there is a wonderful duet with Terry Odabi updating The Clovers' hit "Lovey Dovey" followed by a return to the Memphis sound on a terrific soulful cover of the Mable John classic "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)." This is an excellent close to an imaginatively programmed and arranged recording, that showcases one of the last original soul singers. We should be thankful he is with us and  still sings with all his vocal talent intact on a terrific recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the November-December 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 375), although I had edited my original review to clarify some points. Here is Wee Willie Walker & The Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra performing at the 2015 Porretta Soul Festival.

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