Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

August 2006

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Willie Walker and the Butanes
Memphisopolis
Haute Records

Willie Walker and the Butanes

Wow, what a follow up! Willie Walker and the Butanes' great release of a couple of years ago, Right Where I Belong, was reviewed here in the August 2004 issue of Blues Bytes, and picked by me as that year's second best release. It was beaten out by Ricky Fante's first (what ever happened to Ricky Fante???).

Praise the music Gods, as Walker's latest, Memphisapolis (Haute Records), is even better than Right Where I Belong. With Willie's intensely soulful voice and those funky horns born out of years of listening to Stax recordings, the final test is the songwriting, and once again band leader Curtis Obeda has given us 13 songs that play to the strengths of Walker and the band.

Interestingly not all of the songs were intended for Walker. This release includes six new songs and seven that were written prior to the first release. There is one song, "I'll Get To You," that was written for Bettye Lavette when she was looking for songs for her I've Got My Own Hell To Raise album, but was not among those chosen. "Thanks For Being There" was written for Tyrone Davis but sort of got lost along the way. "Just Wait Til I Get Home" was written with Wilson Pickett in mind, when the Wicked One was about to record his It's Harder Now for Rounder. "Real Love" was intended for Al Green but never made it to any of his releases. It is these great songs, in addition to those written for this project, that form the foundation for what could very well be this year's number one release. This one and last month's Candi Staton form a one - two punch that will be hard to top in 2006.

The opening track, "What's It Take," opens with a horn riff that grabs you right away and sets the very Memphis-sounding tone that pervades throughout this release. The deep ballad "The Dream for Me" could be out of the Otis Redding songbook, as could the horns that jump out at you on the upbeat "My Baby Drives Me Crazy."

"Cry, Cry, Cry" has the sound of Walker's early Goldwax sides. This song is so good that when this CD arrived, I listened to this track over and over. It was like I was in a time warp. "Opposites Attract" has those driving Stax horns again and fine female background singers who add to the joy of this song. The country sounding ballad "I Won't Be Lonely" has an early Joe Tex sound that survives the test of time. Every track has merit --- no throw away tracks here.

The choice of the unusual title, Memphisapolis, is explained by Obeda when he says; "Willie Walker has lived in Minneapolis for over 40 years, but it's still Memphis you hear when he sings."

This release is a revelation and now it is up to all of us to support a project like this. If you love Stax and the golden age of soul, this is a can't live without release. Visit the band at www.thebutanes.com and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. It will not get any better than this.

--- Alan Shutro

 

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