Chick Willis – Things I Used To Do
Big Bear Records – 2020
13 tracks; 65 min 17 sec
This Chick Willis live set was recorded on two hot and sweaty days back in August 1997. The thirteen songs were released on Big Bear Records by Jim “Big Bear” Simpson, renowned promoter and artist manager. The band is Chick Willis on guitar and vocal, Tony Ashton on piano and Hammond organ, Roger Inniss on bass, and Sticky Wicket on drums. Willis had been touring colleges and clubs for years, and entertaining blues fans since the 50s. He passed back in 2013, so it’s nice to have this driving presentation of the “Stoop Down Man” at his best, backed by celebrated British jazz/blues musicians. The band is tight, as they had been on the road for a while.
Things I Used To Do starts with a rollicking shuffle in “Lou’s Place.” Willis’ vocal is tough and confident, and his lead guitar work is prominent throughout. Ashton’s piano jaunts nicely alongside the amazing rhythm section and fills in all the spaces. Next is “Please Don’t Go,” a slow blues about lost love. The album contains five slow blues tracks, all possessing individuality and essence of their own. ”Tin Pan Alley” and “Four Wives Blues” are the final two. The instrumentation of Willis and Ashton are beautifully in sync throughout, and the bass and drums are as tight as it gets.
A few enthusiastic shuffles and funky blues numbers break up the slow ones nicely. The Willis staple “Big Fat Woman” shuffles along vigorously, as he playfully sings, “I want a big fat woman, because a big fat woman tastes as good as a T-bone steak.” Lavelle White’s “Voodoo Woman” and Ed Jones’ “The Things I Used To Do” are covered flawlessly. “Doin’ the Yang Thang” closes this fine blues album in perfect style, showcasing the band individually.
Willis’ playing is reminiscent of Otis Rush and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown at times, and his dynamic string pluck is like Albert Collins and Robert Cray. There’s a ton of emotion and excitement in his performances, throughout Things I Used To Do as well. The album is exemplary electric blues. That’s what it’s all about.