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Published: 2002/09/24
by Michael Lello

Living In A New World – Willie King and the Liberators

Rooster Blues 2647

Willie King lives the blues. You can hear it in the way he articulates a
word or strums a chord. You can hear it in a soaring solo, and you can even
hear it in his album-closing monologue on Living In A New World.

King, born in 1943, has long been a fighter against oppression, and – as
such – political and social themes creep in. Nevertheless, the mood, at
least musically, is mostly upbeat, especially for a blues album.

The lead track is the title track. Here, King's singing is smooth, and his vocal lines are echoed by Willie Lee Halbert, adding credence to the lyrics. It's almost like someone yelling "testify" in a hot, Southern gospel church. It's a technique used throughout the record and it works.

Like most of the album, Living In A New World is free and easy. The
song slides along, with drummer Willie James Williams playing it straight,
tossing in simple fills sparingly. "It took a long time, but I found love, I
found peace, I found happiness," King sings, and while it may look trite on
paper, he pulls it off.

One of the album's stars is alto sax player Kevin Hayes, who turns in a
remarkably restrained and tasteful performance. His sounds are usually
pushed a bit back in the mix but not buried. His instrument's place in the
mix fluctuates, sometimes within one track, and it works well. It's not
jarring, and it helps add to the illusion that these are simple

"Crawlin' Blues", a more traditional sounding blues tune, gives way to "The
Stomper". Again, Halbert plays King's vocal sidekick, and Williams digs
deeper into the pocket. The band is so damn tight it sounds like one big
rhythm section. When King does solo here, it's clean and jazzy, adding to
the song while not shifting the focus.

In a unique touch, King closes his album with "Blues Life", the
aforementioned monologue. The "Blues life," he says, means being "at peace
with yourself, at peace with the creator, just feeling good".

Maybe the lesson is sometimes you need to sing of the lows to truly feel the

It sure has worked for King.

"It taught me how to make a man out of myself," he says at the end of the
monologue. "And I feel good about that."

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