Willie KING & The Liberators – Living in a New World 2002

Willie KING & The Liberators – Living in a New World 2002

Blues

You wouldn’t expect songs about social injustice and the struggle for racial unity to boom out of an Alabama juke joint, but singer-guitarist Willie King is as much activist as bluesman, with a history of community work dating back to the ’60s. He’s also a warm-voiced singer with the soulful phrasing of a country preacher and a knack for plucking raw tones and economical tunes from the heart of his six string. His new album combines beauty and intellect without sacrificing joy. Even while King begs “Will you please hear my call/America, let’s come together” in “America,” the groove slinks around the dance floor and gets goosed by a sweet-toned solo that fades into a symbolic coupling with a funky sax. “You So Evil,” King’s growlin’ tribute to Howlin’ Wolf, and “The Stomper,” an ode to a lead-footed dancer in an Arkansas juke joint King frequents, are pure shots of roughhouse blues.
But King’s best when he’s speaking his mind. And he’s never clearer than on the riveting “Terrorized,” which weds a one-chord, John Lee Hooker riff–King elaborating on it with little flurries of sliding melodies and fills that beckon to Mother Africa–to the lines “Talk about terror/Peoples, I been terrorized all my days … You took my name and you left me in chains/Wouldn’t let me go to school/And you know I didn’t know how to read or write.” King’s last disc, 2000’s Freedom Creek, suffered from shaky musicianship and a lack of energy, but this time, his group and arrangements are as ironclad as his convictions. And that makes this one of the year’s best blues CDs.
By Ted Drozdowski.
**
He definitely rings a bell when it comes to comparing him to RL, but I hate to say this…HE IS BETTER THAN RL BURNSIDE. His soulful voice and lyrics along with his back up vocalist brings a Curtis Mayfield meets Howlin Wolf sound.
My favorite track is definitely The Stomper. It has that dirty blues feel that makes you want to go down south to the nearest Juke Joint and get down. The artwork for this album is also superb.
Definitely a must get for any blues/soul fan!
**
Though the folk revivalists of the 1960s venerated blues as a form of proto-protest music, it was rare to hear the music turned into an overtly incendiary forum. As political revolutionary, former MC5 manager, and New Orleans disc jockey John Sinclair points out in his richly perceptive liner notes, the blues were always conscious of a race struggle, but the force of the music was always directed away from the topic. This created a dramatic tension in the music that, in some ways, is absent from Willie King’s politically sparked music. Even then, the lyrics aren’t so obviously topical that the songs dip into cliché — at least, any more than the blues usually do. That said, King’s overtones never fall into protest folk mumbo-jumbo either. Instead, he uses the two lyrical approaches (political music and the blues) to inform each other and make each sound more palatable than either have in a long while. The Liberators are a fairly groomed ensemble. The music doesn’t sound glossy so much as finely polished. There’s not too much edge to it. And though the band does manage to effortlessly swing, their playing rarely seems dynamic and alive.
By Jesse Jarnow.
**
Willie King- (Vocals, Guitar);
Willie Lee Halbert- (Vocals);
Aaron “Hardhead” Hodge- (Guitar, Background Vocals);
Kevin Hayes- (Alto Sax, Tambourine);
Henry Smith- (Piano, Keyboards, Organ);
Robert Corbett- (Bass);
Willie James Williams- (Drums).
**
01. Living in a New World  5:36
02. Crawlin’ Blues  6:00
03. The Stomper  4:21
04. America  4:49
05. You So Evil  6:52
06. All Tied Up  3:47
07. You Got to Have Love  4:00
08. Ain’t Gonna Work  5:26
09. Is It My Imagination  2:39
10. Terrorized  4:20
11. The Blues Life (monologue)  4:52
**

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