By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The Man From Mars
Bullseye Blues Records
The old saw about not playing catch-up with the times, but relaxing and allowing the times to eventually catch up with you, has worked well for Smokey Wilson. Once too strident for the blues mainstream, his guitar sound now finds itself right in step with trendily popular shrillsters like U.P. Wilson, Eddie Kirkland, and Brewer Philip. Wilson's voice is a foghorn with phlegm, able to tuck into the horn-driven "Louise" with power and violence almost equal to Howlin' Wolf's thrilling original. On his own material, Wilson is obviously unfettered by a need to rhyme or make literal sense; instead, he bawls out sentence fragments with such conviction that all manner of weird imagery is conjured. ("I'm the man from MOW-WURZzzz!", he brays on the title cut.) A long-term Californian, Wilson cut this album in Dallas with Andrew and Chris Jones and Charles Myers on guitar, bass, and drums, respectively; some of the cuts have horns. The setting served him well; this is the strongest music Wilson's ever made.
Taylor, who often takes pains to assure press he's not a blues singer, did deign to accept months of residency on Billboard's blues Top 10 for Good Love (Malaco, '96), but that doesn't mean he isn't telling the truth. This anthology comprises 10 pre-Malaco selections less grounded in blues than in the gummy, gluey R&B Taylor's personified since the early '70s. Backed by such soul-circuit stalwarts as guitarist Eddie Hinton, bassist James Jamieson, and the Memphis Horns, Taylor's reliably lustrous voice uplifts the lugubrious, dripping-with-echo title song, and makes even the Association's "Never My Love" sound manly. Another highlight is "I Want You Back," a study in skanky funk. A good collection from Taylor, who's essential even if he is a guilty pleasure.
Fort Worth soul/bluesman Williams sings with pleasing tones honed by years in gospel groups and a stint with the Coasters show. So why didn't he bring material with even a semblance of strength to this session? His "songs" are little more than a phrase or three, bracketed by innumerable pronunciations of the word "baby," and the arrangements sound as if they'd been spackled together by the band. If you want to hear guitarists Tone Sommer and Andrew Jones solo abundantly, have at this, but such bustle from instrumentalists on a CD that purportedly debuts a singer is evidence of a singer far from ready to record.
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