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
and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. It will not get any better than this.
--- Alan Shutro