soul fans "Wee" Willie Walker is very well remembered on the
basis of his three 60s singles, one for Goldwax (in '67) and two for Checker
(in '68), and the canned sides that have later appeared on some U.K.
compilations. "On Goldwax we were all friends. We all sang gospel at the
same time, but of course we were all in different groups, but we were all very
close. O.V.Wright was a quiet, mild-mannered individual, and James
Carr was an out-going type of a person, but he did have a kind of a
reverence about the way he carried himself. I also went to school with Louis
Williams and Spencer Wiggins. But mainly all those artists were
south in Memphis and I was way north in Minnesota. I would work with Al
Green before he was a recognizable artist, before Back Up Train was
released. In the 70s my band backed Al Green up and I opened up the show for
him in Minnesota."
In spite of
those remarkable singles Willie wasn't able to sign a further recording
contract. "I have no idea as to why. I really haven't given it that much
thought. I think that the organization itself, Goldwax, was undermined, which
is why they leased my last two recordings to Checker, because they figured I
would get more assistance from them."
Since the 60s
Willie has worked part-time in music at his home base in Minnesota, and that's
where he got acquainted with Mr. Curt Obeda and his band, who on and off
used him as a vocalist since 1987. Initially Curt and Willie met in the late
70s, and now finally they got together for an album with the help of an active
Brit, a real soul music lover and the owner of the Keeping Soul Alive company,
Mr. Colin Dilnot. Prior to this, however, they had released an
eponymous album on Willie packed with covers on Haute a couple of years ago.
"That was a personal project, and I wanted to do it just to show that I
was still alive and still performing."
The new album, Right
Where I Belong (One On One Rec., '04), is a great nostalgia trip to all
of the 60s soul music lovers, which there must be many. With real live players
on the background and Willie singing in his best O.V.Wright style and with Curtis
Obeda's fourteen new but "genuine old school" melodies this is as
much a must as Charles Walker was last year. "For recording we
used Curt Obeda's living room, dining room, kitchen and part of his bedroom.
That was for everything, for the track and the vocals. But we were never all
there at the same time. We first did the rhythm track along with my scratch
vocal tracks, and then I had to go back and redo my tracks."
Heavy on the
horns, the CD kicks off with a down-to-earth mid-beater titled I Don't Mind
At All. "I would say that it's a song about a man, who's found
himself in a situation that he didn't expect to be in, but he's happy about
There are many
great soul slowies on display, on which Willie's voice bears a resemblance not
only to Overton, but also to Arthur Conley and Johnnie Taylor,
and of these personal favourites are the intense (We Gotta) Put Out The
Fire, the James Carr aimed No Longer For Me, the basic southern Crying
To Do and the traditional Ain't It Funny. "People seem to
think I do ballads best, and I love them, too."
There are also a
couple of bluesy cuts included, a mid-plodder called Careless and a
slow, Bobby Bland type of a moan titled Sometimes Love's Not Enough.
"It just came out that Bobby Bland way. It wasn't intentional."
The CD offers
many smooth and relaxed mid-pacers, such as Right Where I Belong, Give As
Good As You get and the infectious Down For The Count. On the
upbeat side they have the chugging Change, the funky I Understand
and a careless jogger called I Feel It, which just grabs you along.
"That's the one that's growing on me and is my favourite." On the
strength of this great CD Willie and Curt are already talking about a new
project. This is as good as it gets.