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Willie King - One Love

Freedom Creek Music

By Karen McFarland

Willie King is one of the featured artists on the Alabama Arts Council’s website. He says there, “Well music, music to me is a spiritual, it’s a spiritual thing. See, it helps the mind. See, it reach into your--what we call your soul, your mind. And see, it ain’t your body, it’s what your mind tell you to do and your body gonna try and do it, you know. So it’s in the mind, and get that mind thinking reality to come down. And it’s what the blues do to get you kinda thinking reality. The real thing.”

King’s latest release, One Love, is the real thing. Similar to his live Jukin’ at Bettie’s, which was recorded at a Mississippi juke joint just over the Alabama border and was nominated for a Blues music award as “Traditional Album of the Year” in 2006, One Love sounds live in the studio, and its extended jams will get you dancing in your own virtual juke joint.

From the Hooker-like one-chord boogie of the opener “Sweet Potato Man” through the Tyrone Davis-inflected “One Love,” the instrumentation remains tight, and the constant call-and-response between singer Willie Lee Halbert and Willie King’s raw vocals gives everything the rough edge of authentic blues. There’s a variety of styles throughout—Chicago blues on “Like It Like That” and “Holding the Line,” electified Delta on “Ride Sally Ride,” a modal North Mississippi sound on “Writing in the Sky (Katrina),” and a stop-time shuffle on the raucous “Mama Killed a Chicken.” The one cover on the album is a downhome version of “Spoonful,” with King growling eerily like the Wolf.

Wolf and Hooker along with Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed have all been influences on Willie King, from the time he lived in Chicago in the late ‘60s. But he soon returned home to the poverty of Old Memphis, Alabama, just across the border from his birthplace of Prairie Point, Mississippi. Willie King became a social activist, and his philosophy is reflected in his lyrics. “One Love” talks about not looking at skin color because we all look the same on the inside; “no matter where you live, it’s that same love—it makes no difference if you’re rich or poor, black or white, where you come from: that same one love, that same one soul that everything came from.”

Independently issued on the Freedom Creek Music label, One Love features some of King’s compatriots from the educational Alabama Blues Project, in particular Debbie Bond on guitar and backing vocals, producer Rick Asherson on keyboards and harmonica, and Willie James Williams on drums. Eric Lanier fills in the bass lines, and Brooke McSwain adds a bit of soul with her saxophone.

The final cut on the album is a three-minute monologue called, like the song and the album title, “One Love.” It wouldn’t be a real Willie King album if he didn’t use his voice to speak his mind:

“We’re trying to spread universal love all over the world…. The blues have help heal the world…. The blues is a medicine for the soul…. This CD is dedicated to the one love for the whole round world.”

To Purchase this CD Now CLICK HERE

Reviewer Karen McFarland is a former officer and long time board member of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society. She is also a former member of the board of directors of the Blues Foundation who was recently re-elected for another term on their board.

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