Andre Williams: I Wanna Go Back To Detroit City

andre williams
Andre Williams
I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

“I don’t write songs, I make ‘em up,” Janis Joplin once said about her songcrafting abilities. That’s also an adequate description of veteran R&B character Andre Williams.

The 79-year-old multi-talented music veteran has worked in the business in one fashion or another since his late ’50s Detroit arrival. Williams laundry lists his accomplishments (writer, actor, vocalist, road manager, publisher, recording executive) on this disc’s “Hall of Fame” where he asks what it takes to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ultimately he tells them to “kiss off,” pretty much guaranteeing he won’t be invited in the near future.

Williams’ tactic on most of the material is to recite spoken word monologues in his husky, heavy lidded, world weary baritone over a backing of funk, soul, country or blues, seemingly composing some lyrics as he goes along. Out of the disc’s nine tunes, four are co-credited to Williams along with each member of his backing band, three more are co-writes and only two show penned by him. Longtime producer/guitarist/sidekick Matthew Smith (who also took the sleeve’s photos) is as much an integral part of crafting the tunes as Williams, who seems content to recite words laid atop backing tracks that were likely created without much of his input.

While none of this is news to those who have followed the wildman since his 1999 Bloodshot comeback, Williams continues the concept with his usual hard core panache, letting his larger than life personality along with deep funk/rock/soul riffs and grooves keep things from getting stale. Songs like the slimy blues of “Meet Me at the Graveyard” could have come off Tom Waits’ Heartattack and Vine while “Mississippi Sue” finds the band vamping a bluesy country lick as Williams apologizes to an old flame going to the electric chair because he wasn’t around to watch.

Both the title track and “Detroit (I’m So Glad I Stayed)” testify his dedication to a city with its share of issues over the past few decades. The former finds Williams overdubbing his vocals that consist only of the song’s title with the latter laying down a tough, psychedelic Funkadelic riff as he growls his love for the metropolis that is “coming back.” Williams goes acoustic blues for “I Don’t Like You No More,” a typical – at least for him— kiss-off to a soon to be ex-girlfriend.

Nevertheless, it seems he can knock this stuff off in his sleep by now, and the closing instrumental where Williams is credited only with tambourine implies he didn’t have the initiative to write lyrics. That doesn’t make this a bad or even disappointing listen. But it’s hard to imagine that after a few spins, most won’t file this with Williams’ other similarly styled albums that, even with his distinctively wacked-out approach, are starting to sound routine, if not flat out lazy. Still, at nearly 80, he’s out there swinging, which in itself is an accomplishment at a time when most of his peers are laying back and collecting Social Security.

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