Thursday, May 31, 2012

“You gotta problem, America?!” This summer's roll-up-the-windows soundtrack

Andre Williams' most recent outing with The Sadies, Night & Day, is largely a table-clearing bellow. The press release indicates that Williams was pretty much ripped-to-the-tits recording the first portion of the album. When this bender began is open to speculation, but its conclusion unequivocally took place the day he was incarcerated. He returned to the studio a few years later, clean and sober and ready to finish.

There is certainly some buoyancy in the latter tracks that was nowhere to be found on the earlier ones. But if the uninitiated listener steers clear of the liner notes, it's anybody's guess where the turning point between belligerent rummy and wised-up 12-stepper actually takes place.

Nor does it matter. Williams is about getting the feeling right, and the words are guttural cyphers suggesting a reptilian menace lurking just beneath the placid surface of the swamp, while the glory we amphibians occasionally reach for does little more than shine a refracted light over the whole scene.

Williams stint as an early R&B man is storied. He seems to have been one of those original viewers of Superfly who rolled his eyes at what he saw, then stomped over to the record studio to lay down exactly what was what. That was a good deal more than what audiences in the 60s and 70s were asking for, but Williams survived long enough for things to come around his way. The ears of both the young and the old have grown weary of artists being pretenders to the pantheon.

Of course the flip side of bitter survival is wonderment, which Williams also gives expression to, albeit with the accompanying shadow of self-awareness. “I thank God, and a Higher Power, that I lived to see this hour,” is a pleasant sort of leaven — until it tilts deliciously back to toxic fermentation, as Williams concludes with a shrug: “I could shoot a man in five minutes.”

The Sadies and a wide assortment of R&B stalwarts take over the studio to give Williams the trippy boost his battered vocal chords and psyche need to carry the message. The YouTube samples don't have quite the same mix as what you'll hear over your speakers in the car, but go ahead and give 'em a click. Just take my word for it: the final mix was dragged through an alley full of trash, making Night & Day this year's roll-up-the-windows soundtrack.

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