Andre Williams & The Sadies
Canada’s finest live band, The Sadies, have reunited with explicit soul singer/cult legend Andre Williams for Night and Day on Yep Roc Records. Night and Day is the result of sessions that began in 2008 at Key Club Studio in Detroit and captures Andre, then 70 years old and still using at the time, at his most raw, honest, and immediate. No filter.
Andre is aided by a stellar cast of musical friends, dirty bluesers who have earned the trust of the ancient hustler, including Jon Spencer (who directed these sessions) and Matt Verta-Ray of Heavy Trash, Danny Kroha of Detroit’s own gutter-blues superheroes, The Gories, the unsinkable Mekon, Jon Langford, and of course, behind it all, The Sadies’ long-time line-up of Dallas Good on guitars and keys, his brother Travis Good on guitars and fiddle, Mike Belitsky on drums, and the mighty Sean Dean on the bass. The result is a raw, gritty slice of raunch rock that has attitude in spades and the hooks and playing to back it up.
The story starts at Key Club Studio,an old school jungle of analogue gear an hour outside of Detroit. Andre had just been sprung from a few days in the county cooler where he was being held until his manager came to bail him out, a charge he would eventually beat, but his most recent stop in stir is well reflected on this record in tracks like “I Gotta Get Shorty Out of Jail,” featuring fabulously retro cool back-up vocals by Sallie Timms and Kelly Hogan, and “Your Old Lady,” a song about sending a lover back to her man after he gets out of prison.
Throughout these sessions, Andre kept his rum buzz and his harangue on, and even if he showed up missing his bottom row of dentures — he growls “I like my rum, coz I got no teeth, I let it flow over my gums” — he was still able to drawl and percolate his continuing narrative of life in songs. In “America” he sings that “Living in America ain’t no fun, better have some money or you’ll be on the run, and it’s a goddamn shame, without cash you’re trash… the men are dogs, the women are hogs, but that ain’t a bad thing… it’s better than living in Africa.”
Behind Andre’s dark take on “America,” and throughout Night and Day, background vocals are handled by the dynamic duo of Kelly Hogan and Sally Timms, who put Andre’s worldview into stark contrast with their flawless, hopeful harmonies.
Since these sessions, Andre was able to shake off some of his demons and has been living clean ever since. Says Andre, “I like where I am now. My family admires me now. I kindawanna keep it like that.”
Dallas Good writes in the liner notes for Night and Day that the first session “was good but we were worried for Andre. A couple years later, everything was different. He was sober and sharp. Agile, mobile and hostile. Night and Day. It wouldn’t be fair to the new Andre (who I’d never met after working together for like, 12 years) to let the old Andre have this album. So we did more.”
But stoned drunk or stoned cold sober, nothing ever changes too much in the world of Andre. In “Bored” he says “The worst thing in the world is a black man being bored, and broke… and he’s in his room alone, getting stoned -you got a problem America! … I don’t use drugs no more… but I will, if I have to.” In his most humble moment on the record, “I Thank God,” he thanks his Creator for “letting him live till this hour” … while also noting that he “could shoot a man in five minutes.”
It’s not all so grim: Andre’s perverse sense of humor is heard to its brightest effect on the positively ebullient country number, “Hey Baby!” and he pours on some serious old-school Detroit charm to croon a classic last-call duet with Sally Timms, “That’s My Desire.”
The resulting record is a modern classic, with Andre showing remarkable range -from heartbreak and bitterness to ribald humor, swagger, raunch, sleaze, fear and retribution, romance gone right and romance gone wrong, and all in the spirit of the sloppy fun that has made him a legend. Andre Williams represents as the first and last of a breed of pimp-rolling R&B wise men, the real deal, an authentic totem of the low-down and disreputable, a man who has played outside the law, and outside the record business, and somehow managed to come out not only alive, but with a fervent cult behind him.
Night and Day, indeed. There is wisdom in these grooves.
Hustler, producer, singer, songwriter, raconteur, bon vivant, and most recently author, Andre Williams is nothing short of a legend. Beginning with his greasy R&B hits “Bacon Fat” and “Jail Bait” for Detroit’s Fortune records in 1957, Andre was well on his way to earning the nickname the “Black Godfather.” Throughout the ’60s and into the ’70s, Andre penned songs for Stevie Wonder, Ike and Tina Turner, and Funkadelic, and continued to release songs about (among other pleasures) soul food and illicit sex; greasy platters like “Sweet Little Pussy Cat” and “Rib Tips, Pts. 1 & 2″that would become the essential elements of a catalog known for its decidedly down-low take on R&B. The ’80s saw hard times for Andre — drugs and booze crippled his career, and the man who had gone on to write hits like “Shake a Tailfeather” and produce and record for Chess and Motown was written off for dead. A small yet forcefully dedicated legion of fans helped push Andre back into the spotlight, and in 1996 he released Mr. Rhythm. This was the first step towards a comeback that would see him become the darling of the raunch’n'roll punk-blues set two years later with the release of Silky,a recording so sleazy that it bordered on the avant-garde, and quickly earned him a new rush of cult followers. In 1999, he recorded his first outing with the Sadies, Red Dirt, a working relationship that has endured dizzying tours, jail time, and of course, Andre’s irascible (to put it politely) behavior. Their new record, Night and Day, is the most recent culmination of their creative prowess and mutual trust, and another jewel in the crown of this 75-year-old singer.
The Sadies have been called “the best thing to cross the Canadian border since prohibition.” Their reputation as “musician’s musicians” and “a real working band” has been earned in roadhouses and bucket-of-blood bars as well as theaters and festivals all over the world where, for the last 14 years, they have astonished audiences with their earthy arsenal of traditional roots music, country, spaghetti western excursions, surf, garage rock, psychedelia, and the slippery beast known as alt rock, all with uncanny precision and passion. Also known as steadfast collaborators, they are the go-to band for Neko Case and have worked closely with John Doe, Jon Langford, and Jon Spencer and Matt Verta-Ray in their rockabilly explosion Heavy Trash. Their last record for Yep Roc was 2010′s highly acclaimed Darker Circles, produced by Gary Louris.