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Published: 2012/02/29
by Brian Robbins

Andre Williams
Hoods And Shades

Bloodshot Records

If 2010’s That’s All I Need – a cool mix of psych, soul, funk, and rock from been-there-and-back soulman Andre Williams – made you shake your head and say, “No shit – he’s 73? ” then get ready to be blown away again. Two years later, Williams is still laying down his gravel-in-the-vocal-chords laid-back hipster rap – and he hasn’t turned down the heat a bit. The tunes may be acoustic-based for the most part, but there’s still plenty of snapping, growling, and funked-out electric gee-tar when the mood calls for it; there’s still plenty of hip-swaying, butt-grinding, nasty-shaking rhythm – and there’s still plenty of Andre. And that there says it all.

Hoods And Shades features the return of a couple of MVPs from Williams’ last album: guitarist Dennis Coffey and Williams have known each other since the glory days of Motown, and Matthew Smith is once again on board to dole out some fine six-string while also handling the album’s production. Bass duties are split among Jim Diamond, Phil “Greasy” Carlisi, and Don Was, who steps in brandishing an upright from time to time. Jim White handles the drums, taking the beat from the back alley to Funkytown effortlessly. Backing vox are supplied by Troy Gregory and Dave Shettler, who also drops in little dollops of moog as needed.

75 years old or not, Williams sure sounds like he’s still on the prowl, growling out his best offer on “Gimme” (“Gimme what I want and I’ll give you what you need”) and doling out the hipster come-hither lines left and right over the rockabilly bounce of “Jaw Dropper”. (“Hey baby, I don’t know if you’ve ever been told, but you sure is proper/You just a jaw-dropper.”)

There are stories told as only Andre Williams could tell them (a function of having lived them). “Swamp Dogg’s Hot Spot” is Williams’ tale of “a bad mamma jamma” that he crossed paths with in jail years ago. A slow-crawling bass and White’s too-cool-to-hurry drums lay it down smooth while Williams raps out a few chapters of Swamp Dogg’s story. “Mojo Hannah”, meanwhile, was “a gumbo-cooker and a alligator-hooker make a dead man jump and shout” as testified by Williams. Dig when, at the 2:15 mark, Williams says “Come on, Dennis” and Coffey steps forward with blasts of clean-toned raunch (yeah, there is such a thing – just listen and learn).

There aren’t a lot of gimmicks to the mix on Hoods And Shades – just set-ups that complement Williams and his one-of-a-kind lyrics and delivery. Smith chooses to keep ol’ Andre right up in the front on the title track, with the acoustic guitar and the rhythm section a couple steps behind him – and a crazy-ass psych guitar waayyyyy back here … adding just the right amount of tension to an already-nervy setting. “A Good Day To Feel Bad” finds Williams ‘fessing up on fucking up: “I guess I’m just a bonafide loser,” he admits, the bass and drums doing a funklurch behind him as a close-to-Heaven-as-he’s-gonna-get chorus of voices “ahhhhh” away and an acoustic and an electric guitar pop switchblades and circle on each other.

Even when the band takes off on a funk churn that would do James Brown and the Fabulous Flames proud (“I’ve Got Money On My Mind”), there’s an acoustic guitar tucked in there, chunking out the goo to hold the whole works together. (All that’s lacking is a command from Williams for the boys to “Take it to the bridge!”)

In the end, for all the great talent to be found on Hoods And Shades it’s ol’ Andre Williams hisself who makes it all come together, be cool, and – most importantly – be real.

Oh, yes.

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