There's no question that one of the feel-good stories in the blues over the past few years has been the reemergence of guitar legend Jody Williams onto the scene. After having quit the music business in frustration nearly 40 years ago, the former guitarist for such Chicago stalwarts as Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley and Billy Boy Arnold started venturing back to clubs to hear music in the late '90s and, after a few reluctant appearances on stage, found out that he still had plenty to say and that there were plenty of fans who wanted to hear it.
Under the guidance of producer Dick Shurman (and with help from old friend Arnold, along with guitarists Rusty Zinn, Tinsley Ellis, Ronnie Baker Brooks and Sean Costello), Williams released the wonderful Return Of A Legend in 2002, which snared him a Handy Award.
Williams's sophomore effort for Evidence, You Left Me In The Dark, is even better. There are several key factors involved, one of which definitely has to be the increasing confidence of Williams in his abilities. While his vocal style is half-singing, half-spoken, his vocals are ideally suited for the material, which consists of 13 originals and a cover of Sam Cooke's "Nothing Can Change This Love."
Throughout, Williams is on top of his game on guitar, whether touching on Latin rhythms on the title cut, or remaking his song, "Hideout," which can best be described as an "Earl King meets Freddy King" cut, or "Don't Get Caught Sleeping In My Bed."
Though Williams plays the minor key West Side blues as well as anyone, he also has been influenced by other guitarists, such as T-Bone Walker and even Charlie Christian and Eddie Durham and it shows throughout. Despite all that, Williams is very much his own man on guitar. It's hard to think of anyone who sounds just like he does.
Williams also displays some very good composition skills, too, with an eye for a witty lyric on tracks like "I Make Money," where he sings, "I make money, honey. Money don't make me," and on "She Put A Spell On Me," a duet with Lonnie Brooks, he sings that the woman's got him tripping over his moustache and his eyebrows too.
The other factor is the fact that there are fewer guest stars on this disc, which gives Williams more room to display his skills. The only guest stars on this disc are longtime friends Lonnie Brooks and Robert Lockwood Jr., who appear on two tracks each. Both do an excellent job on their tracks.
The production, by Shurman, is rock solid, as always. The band, featuring Willie Henderson, who plays baritone saxophone and arranged the horns, Billy Flynn and Chris James on guitar, and Rob Waters, who does a bang-up job on organ and piano, is outstanding.
It's great to have Jody Williams back, and at the top of his game like he is. If you enjoyed his first Evidence release, you're sure to love You Left Me In The Dark.
--- Graham Clarke
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