Andre Williams – Hoods And Shades (Bloodshot Records.2012)
Hoods And Shades is what the author himself describes as “the Andre Williams Folk Album“. We can’t argue with the man who wrote and recorded the album but we humbly believe that Hoods And Shades is even more than this. How about the Andre Williams Great Folk And Urban Blues Album?
Andre is what you call a one of a kind artist. The kind whose irony and poetic sharpness reflect a deep and seen-it-all kind of knowledge of human behaviour. A knowledge that comes from the dirty streets of Detroit, his hometown and the joints that welcome his gigs for the past few decades. 90 years ago, Andre would have been a cornerstone bluesman, 40 years ago, he would have been a leader of the Outlaw movement.
Hoods And Shades brings back the man’s typical talkin’ style, the urban poetry and the roots and blues. While the opening song reminds the Blues Brothers’ biggest hit, some space is made for funk and soul too on the Shaft-esque I’ve Got Money On My Mind, while the ghost of Gil Scott-Heron haunts the title track. Eclectic indeed, but coherent too.
Grey faces of the ghetto, “jaw dropping” women, loverman’s moanings, social critics, a baritone voice that never lies and some soulful sense of humour. That’s right, what we have here is a hell of a modern blues album. Urban Blues… at its best.
Have you heard his name before? Maybe not. But you will hear it again, take my word. On the cover of his debut album The Shovel [vs] The Howling Bone, Lincoln Durham looks like a mix of Jack White and the Clockwork Orange guy. But from the little chat we had I’d say he’s no sociopath. And from the amazing album he’s put out I’d say he sounds like no one else. Lincoln Durham howls the blues and moans his own version of the painful human condition like a wolf wounded in some vicious trap. His voice is deep and layered, smooth and raw. His guitar resonates like a cry in the night. We talked about the difficulty of putting out an album without the machine guns of a record label, the lonely process of songwriting and the roots of blues.
I try every time I write a song or do a performance to give everything I got ‘cause I don’t feel like it’s worth it if I don’t
Good Music Fox: It must be an exciting week for you with the release coming out next Monday, how are you handling the pressure so far? Lincoln Durham: Oh not well. It’s been stressful, it really has. As it gets closer, we’re really excited because it’s a long time coming for us. We’ve been waiting a while so there is that end of it but the other end of it is a wave of little details that you never think about that come and hit you all at once and you realize just how ill prepared you are. We’re keeping our head out of the water but it’s bittersweet. It’s a lot of fun but there’s the business end of the music too.
GMF: What are the responses like so far? You’ve already received some pretty good reviews, so that must help though? L.D: Yeah the reviews that’s been coming in have been a pretty good response. We did a little in store presale thing down south from where we live in New Braunfeld, Texas and the response was great, it was a lot better than I expected so we’re really happy about that. We’re getting a lot of very good UK reviews, which is really nice because one of my biggest goals for the album this year was to hopefully get a foot in the door and do a little bit of touring over there. We’re probably gonna be able to do that. We’re working on a tour with some guys, it might happen in the fall.
The reviews from the States are coming in this month so we don’t have a lot of that yet but we’ve had some great local reviews. We’re happy with the results so far.
GMF: You told me that you were waiting for a long time to do this record. Were there particular problems to put it out or is there a story behind that? L.D: There is yeah. We started a long time ago with Ray Wylie Hubbard, the producer of this record. He’s the one who kinda took me under his wing and taught me everything he knows. That’s where I got my start I guess professionally speaking, with the help of Ray.
But I started with this singer-songwriter thing that was a lot more folky, a lot more tamed kind of music. I just went through an emotional part of my life for about a year. I didn’t talk to anybody, I lived in a house by myself and I literally would talk only to the people I was ordering my food from and that was about it. But I was writing and I was reading, I didn’t have a TV –still don’t have one – and I just shut myself in. In the meantime, the music changed drastically. It just got darker and eventually became what the album is now.
What would happen is that we went in with this folkier music, the way I used to be, recorded a little bit, maybe 1 or 2 songs, then run out of money. We started again in another couple of months…What kept happening was: as I would come back the music kept changing pretty drastically from what it was. It got darker and more hard-edged. Finally we did come in and I had become I guess what I was gonna become. Then we finished the record. It was this period of 2 or 3 complete restart…we kept trashing the tracks because I had changed so much in between, by time of collecting enough money and all, that kind of stuff. So that’s why it took so long; I would say 2 or 3 years. Once I had found myself musically, we did it in a week.
G.M.F: Maybe that painful process is what also nourished the album. It’s dark indeed but maybe that’s what makes it so beautiful? L.D: Well thank you. I really cocooned throughout that period of time as I said but I’m constantly evolving. I love the way the album turned out but as I’m writing and performing I feel like I’m already changing. And if you like the dark, hard-edged stuff, it’s for the better because it’s getting even more so…more raw and dark. But I finally got to who I was as a musician and as a writer and from there, it all started flowing pretty easily. I would not trade all that pain and suffering for anything because it really had an intrical part of what I do and who I am now.
G.M.F: So I understand there was a lot of solitude behind this album’s story. Now you’re about to go on tour to support it. How do you feel being on the road and playing those songs that actually come from the dark to real people, on the stage? L.D: I love it actually. It’s that weird thing…You are exposing yourself to a crowd. I don’t write a song from other people’s perspective. I don’t decide I’m gonna write a song about a crow and I write a song about a crow. It’s all emotions and past experiences, things that happened to me or emotions I went through in my life. I either tell how they actually happened or make them more interesting stories but it’s all direct experiences of my life. And it’s good therapy for me, it’s my way of coping and it’s my way of showing people what I have in my head. It’s weird, I don’t find it hard to do that in front of a crowd…to intimately show myself, because I really love doing what I do. I love playing for other people. I try every time I write a song or do a performance to give everything I got ‘cause I don’t feel like it’s worth it if I don’t. I don’t feel like walkin’ to a place and it’s a paycheck to me or I just wanna be rich and famous or anything like that. It’s just good for my soul. I find it very therapeutic to let people hear these songs, to let people in to what’s a constant solitude inside my head.
G.M.F: When I listen to your music, I hear a lot of Blues. How does it influence you? L.D: My daddy made me start with a fiddle when I was 4 years old. I was always influenced by what my dad liked musically. So I grew up early on with the Outlaws, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and people like that. As I got older and I picked up the guitar, at that time my dad was really into people like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton and so on. As a result it’s what influenced me at first. I was being engrossed into that sort of blues, that 80’s, 90’s trio type of blues. I started to want to know where their roots were, which of course led me to Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, stuff like that. Then I got really obsessed with that 60’s psychedelic blues and rock for a while and then from there it made me wanna go back and find out what their roots were. And it eventually took me to people like Son House, Fred McDowell, Lightin’ Hopkins, Robert Johnson and the likely catch that you would think of. I got to that and I got to the old field songs from the slavery days. That music spoke to me because it felt like that was real music; there wasn’t any aspiration to fortune and fame and things like that. They were singing those songs because it was their way of getting by. They didn’t really have anything else but those songs. I just felt that that was such a real reason to write, to make music. I really got latched on to that. So I kinda digressed through the century I guess, or through the decades. I got to these field hollers, chain gang chants and the original blues that those guys were coming up with. I just went from there and back to the other direction and tried to do my own interpretation or bastardising of what they did. -End
And the result is a modern blues and roots blend that hits you in the face and cuts you to the bone. Yeah, the howling bone. The album is out on January 31st and is already shortlisted for our best of 2012…