Album Review: I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City by Andre Williams
Very Good, Based on 5 Critics
Record Collector - 80 Based on rating 4/5
Since first appearing over 60 years ago on Detroit’s Fortune label, Andre Williams has been delivering street-wise lyrics over greasy juke joint blues grooves, presaging rap with his sleaze-encrusted missives about inner city life and carrying ghetto ribaldry into the mainstream on outings such as Bacon Fat and Jail Bait, which laid a disheveled blueprint for filth and uproar. Now 79 and backed by Detroit’s finest (including Dennis Coffey of the Funk Brothers, Dan Kroha and Jim White), Williams uncorks the real low-down street deal on funky groove-tracks such as the serrated blues of I Don’t Like You No More, spooked Meet Me At the Graveyard, JB-flecked Times, defiantly heavy Detroit (I’m Glad I Stayed) and the title track’s psychedelic swirl (ending with the tellingly instrumental vamp of Morning After Blues). The nine sizzling tracks here may fly by, but reveal a true pioneer still firing on his much-abused cylinders – barking, rumbling and even singing the country-flavoured Mississippi Sue, which startlingly recounts how the true love of his life got the electric chair.
Soul survivor still going strong. Detroit hard-soul legend Andre Williams has gone through so many resurgences, resurrections and reinventions over the decades that it’s sorta beautiful to hear him just sit back and roll through a few breezy funk, blues and even country numbers here..
While the conventional wisdom in Michigan has it that the City of Detroit is slowly but surely making a comeback, Andre Williams isn't quite having that. Heading back to his old home town, Williams discovered the former home of Fortune Records, the Motor City label where he cut his first hits, was now an overgrown empty lot. Struck by this, Williams began writing lyrics about what Detroit was, is, and could be, and these tunes dominate 2016's I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City.
The reemergence of Detroit is, if not quite yet national news, certainly a hot topic in the state of Michigan. In the wake of the city’s bankruptcy and subsequent literal and metaphorical collapse, Detroit has become a bastion for young artists and musicians. With its appealingly low housing costs and unique real estate opportunities, the city has morphed into something of a mecca for those looking to express their creativity in an area rich with history and potential.
The “Shake A Tail Feather” man hasn’t necessarily been a stranger to the Detroit music scene of late, having transmogrified his raw R&B into a more garage-rocking beast via collaborations over the last decade with members of the Dirtbombs and the Demolition Doll Rods, not to mention folks such as Jon Spencer, Jack White, and the Sadies who clearly claim allegiance to the locale. Pretty fitting for a guy who arrived in Detroit in the ‘50s to start his career—call it full cycle. For his umpteenth long-player (and fifth for Bloodshot), the alliance continues, with musicians on the album including Matthew Smith of Outrageous Cherry and Dan Kroha from the Doll Rods.