Andre Williams photography by Robert Matheu.
Andre Williams began a very prolific and creative phase of his life when he finally got off booze and drugs. His intake of various substances was excessive, unrelenting, and dated back to at least the 1960’s, when he was working extensively with Ike Turner. Reflecting on his very first drug-and-alcohol-free studio session in 2009, Andre says, “It was traumatic. It was like someone shot me out in space and I woke up on Pluto!”
Andre Williams’ new album “Life” was recorded this past winter in Detroit, the city where his musical career first began in the 1950’s. Andre’s new songs are his latest experiments and explorations outside of the garage-soul bag that he’s often associated with. Produced by Matthew Smith, the album’s sonic palette recalls the work of Norman Whitfield’s Motown productions, 70’s Rolling Stones, Can, Bill Withers, Serge Gainsbourg, as well as Andre’s own doo-wop and funk history.
“Life” finds Andre in a pretty upbeat mood, whether he’s singing about people being rude and impatient (“But’n”), or laying down a political commentary (“Blame it on Obama”), reciting a children’s bedtime story (“Ty the Fly”), singing a simple love song (“Stuck in the Middle”, “It’s Only You That I Love”), or conjuring a nocturnal fetish-sex-groove (“Heels”).
The album also includes his own definitive rocking version of the standard he wrote and produced for the Five Du-Tones in 1963, “Shake a Tail Feather”. It’s a reminder that Andre Williams is one of the original guys who invented rock n’ roll.
The music—smoke-ringed guitars, Stax-worthy bass, distant reverb, tastes of country-rock and tart funk, scents of Bourbon breath—speaks octaves without ever breaking out of its languid, lugubrious spell. – M.T. Richards / AMERICAN SONGWRITER
Backed by a Detroit crew led by Matthew Smith of Outrageous Cherry, the 76-year-old R&B reprobate shows no signs of mellowing on his umpteenth LP. The satirical “Blame It On Obama” (“When your wife is on the run/And she won’t give you none/We’ll just blame it on Obama”) will get the most attention, but it’s the tougher, bluesier cuts like “Shake a Tail Feather,” which Williams wrote in the 50s, that stick out. Picks to click: “Stuck in the Middle,” “Shake a Tail Feather”. – Michael Toland / The BIG TAKEOVER
Andre Williams’ new album, 'Life' is absolutely stunning. It really doesn’t matter how old this guy gets, he will always sing about the glory of the beautiful woman (Heels, Shake a Tail Feather), being down on his luck (Don’t Kick My Dog, Money Ain’t Got No Loyalty) and, best of all on this record, current affairs (Blame it on Obama). A baking band featuring Matt Smith, Jim Diamond and Dave Shettler only helps enhance Williams’ dry, witty, deadpan delivery. Just wow. – Brett Calwood / DETROIT METRO TIMES
The legendary Andre Williams has put out a video for the song 'Blame it on Obama', which apparently caused a heap of controversy due to people getting all het up before actually listening to the song, which happens to be pro the President. It’s a slinky little number too. Williams’ tongue is firmly in his cheek when he blames his wife’s aging appearance on Obama. His wit is still as sharp as ever. – DETROIT METRO TIMES
A fascinating new Andre Williams tune. It's called 'Blame It on Obama,' and it's a peach. A rotten, sticky peach, perhaps—but peachy nonetheless. – PORTLAND MERCURY
Whilst Life demonstrates that Willimms has burned the candle at both ends on many occasion, the 76 year-old can still create magic when required, most especially on the gloriously exuberant "Shake a Tail Feather'. – Sean McGhee / VIVE LE ROCK
An album that is authentic and real, from the hip and from the heart. It has not been and easy life, but audiences and fans are reaping the rewards. – SMarx / RECORD DPT.
Talent never ages and "Life" covers a range of tempos and energy levels seamlessly and with complexity and depth. This is the work of a master who has rare perspective on his craft. This new album gives this legend the hi-def treatment and it sounds fantastic. – RUSTZINE
There is bountiful life in this old do yet. And at 76 years of age, Williams and his crakin band instill the spirit of energy and narrative spice in this most refreshing album. Life - get into it! – WAIKATO TIMES
A magnificent album from a remarkable man who at seventy six is rocking louder and harder than most people half his age. – WHISPERIN & HOLERIN
Life is the blowsy blooze album that Iggy Pop has always wanted to record and dang near came close to waxing on several occasions—and don’t laugh: just like the Igg at his elucidatory educatin’ best, Mr. Williams’ lyrics dispense minimal jewels of wisdom and are backed up with a slow-drippin’ vocal delivery that’s as thick as molasses and is guaranteed to stick to the roof of your brain twice as long before it comes loose. – Jeffrey Morgan's MEDIA BLACKOUT
At 75, Andre Williams is fighting fit and musically matching it with any septuagenarian on the planet.
Andre is a band slut. He's running around with half a dozen outfits. This is not a bad thing for we fans. The Detroit crew accompanying him on "Life" (Matthew Smith on guitar, David Shettler on drums and Jim Diamond on bass) is one of his best. An ensemble in the true sense and up to the challenge of following Andre wherever he leads. Smith has been playing behind Wiiliams, off and on, since "Silky" and knows where to tread. His guitar is evocative and psychedelic - just like he plays with his own band, Outrageous Cherry.
"Life" is psychedelic soul, in the same mould as the brace of swansong day albums by the late Nathaniel Meyer on this same label (and involving some of this same band.) Andre Williams has been here before and is fast staking a claim on this turf as his own. – The Barman / I-94 BAR
That Andre Williams sure knows how to get attention. The literature accompanying Life, his upcoming album, reports that 2009 included his first-ever drug/alcohol-free work. Which, for an R&B and “punk blues” vocalist who’s been on the planet since 1936, is saying something. Williams’ credits include hits for Stevie Wonder and Ike and Tina Turner, writing for Parliament/Funkadelic, and recording for the infamous Chess Records.
If I had to back that kind of history up with new material, I’d crave a few stiff ones, myself.
Williams is known for unabashed, often down-and-dirty song topics (“Pig Snoots,” “Humpin’ Bumpin’ and Thumpin’,” “The Greasy Chicken”). A single release of his wry reflection on public criticism of the 44th U.S. president, “Blame It On Obama,” precedes Life. Out through Alive Naturalsound Records Life is packed with funky, old school blues. – Mary Leary / MOKB
He's the best R&B, blues-punk musician you've never heard of. He has a solid backup band and a touch of humor (especially "Blame It On Obama"). He even does a version of "Shake a Tail Feather," a song he co-wrote in the '60s. – Gerry Galipault / HERALD TRIBUNE
Originally written and produced for The Five Du-Tones in 1963, Williams includes a version of his standard “Shake a Tail Feather.” For those only familiar with the tune from Blues Brothers’ movies, be prepared to be amazed and astounded. With his low-fi backing band featuring producer Matthew Smith on guitar, piano, organ, trumpet and synthesizer, Jim Diamond on bass and David Shettler on drums, drum machine and synthesizer. Williams proves that while his liver, brain and lungs may be clean, his intentions on “Shake a Tail Feather” are quite dirty. – Georgetown Fats / BOSTON BLUES SOCIETY
Life is a triumph from start to finish, and one of the year’s best records. – The RECORD CHANGER
Firmly ensconced in sobriety and in his 70s, Chicago-born R&B legend of the underground (and of indie rockers and rappers alike) is true to his lowdown self with his latest disc. – JSOnline
Matthew Smith produced Life, co-wrote most of the songs with Williams, and anchors the backing band (along with Jim Diamond on bass and David Shettler on drums), and the results are lean, greasy, early-'70s-style tunes with a subtle but potent psychedelic undercurrent, and they give Williams an effective backdrop as he declaims on his troubles with women, cash, and animal-haters, as well as singing the praises of high heels. – Mark Deming / ALL MUSIC
The Guardian ran an interesting piece about how the hip hop world has started to turn on Barack Obama, which is well worth a read over your morning coffee. Not so legendary lecher Andre Williams, however, whose new single is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the tendency of voters (particularly those of a right-wing persuasion) to blame pretty much anything and everything on the president. It’s really rather great, and it’s available for download here. – FLAVORWIRE