The Hungry Williams – Let’s Go!
Rochelle Records – 2022
10 tracks; 34 minutes
It’s a long way from Wisconsin to New Orleans, but The Hungry Williams’ leader John Carr has long held a fascination for New Orleans R&B music and wanted a band that swung like the music he so admired. That is the essence of The Hungry Williams, named after one of the Crescent City’s greatest drummers, Charles ‘Hungry’ Williams and they play this unashamedly retro music with great enthusiasm. They released their debut Brand New Thing in 2020 and on this second album they continue to mix originals with covers drawn mainly from the 50’s and early 60’s. The band is led by John on drums, with Kelli Gonzalez on vocals, Joe Vent on guitar, Jack Stewart on keys and Mike Sieger on bass; the band is augmented by baritone sax player Casimir Riley and tenor sax man Jason Goldsmith who provides most of the solos. The sessions were engineered and recorded by Jacob LaCally whom John persuaded to come to Wisconsin to work on the album, having been impressed by his work with The California Honeydrops.
The album opens with the band’s tribute to New Orleans, “Mardi Gras Day”, the second line rhythms augmented by the trumpet of Lech Wierzynski of The California Honeydrops who added his part remotely (though you would never know, as it sounds like he was there in the room with the band). “Movin’ On” has the strolling rhythms so associated with Fats Domino and is pianist Stewart’s tribute to Fats and his usual collaborator, Dave Bartholomew; Kelli sings it superbly, as she does the band’s version of Lavern Baker’s “You’d Better Find Yourself Another Fool” which has a storming sax solo and fine backing vocals from the rest of the band. Big Maybelle is a favorite of the Hungries and “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” is one of several of her songs that the band performs live, Kelli giving the familiar song plenty of ‘sass’. “Gee Baby” was first released in 1959 by duo Joe & Ann and it’s another classic piece of NO music, more solid vocals from all the band on this one and another sax solo to savor.
John and Kelli wrote “Boss Man” and its jaunty rhythms offer a good opportunity for John to feature briefly on the drums mid-song before Kelli’s “Big Mouth Betty” which she insists is not autobiographical! Maybe not, but it’s a fun song with some witty lyrics about someone who “never stops to take a breath”. “Oooh-Wow” was written by Fats Domino’s guitarist, Roy Montrell, so it is appropriate that guitarist Joe Vent handles the lyrics on another NO classic. Kelli returns with the 1962 hit by Martha Carter, “Then I’ll Believe”, another ‘strolling’ rhythm with a fine sax break. The album closes with the highly inventive and comic “669 (Across The Street From The Beast)”. This one is a joint effort between John, Kelli and Joe and was apparently intended to fade out, but as the band was cooking, they let the tape run. Amongst the lyrical fun is this couplet: “He may not have a pitchfork and tail, man you ought to hear him howl and wail”.
Although rather short by modern CD standards there is no filler here, every track is a winner and, if you enjoy swinging, NO-flavored, music, you should definitely investigate The Hungry Williams.