Little Village Foundation
CD: 12 Songs; 47:05 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Jazz-and-Soul-Influenced Blues, Ensemble Blues
Lady Luck is sought after by many a musician, but she’s said to be fickle. Who can predict the artists upon whom she’ll bestow favor? Some make it big, like Rick Estrin and Kid Andersen, and some make it HUGE, like one McKinley Morganfield. Others, even though their talent and passion for the blues is more than obvious, aren’t so lucky. Consider “Wee” Willie Walker, one of the stars of the soul record label Goldwax Records. Currently living in Minnesota, he’s been performing for over 40 years, and is still going strong, yet not getting the huge recognition he deserves. “The music world is full of injustice,” co-producer Rick Estrin writes in the liner notes of If Nothing Ever Changes. Walker should have reached the top, according to Estrin and yours truly. Want proof? There’s no wrong note on this CD’s tracks. To be fair, only number five, “Not That I Care”, is a Walker original, but that’s a minor quibble.
This isn’t merely an “ensemble” album, but in this reviewer’s opinion, it should be a “chorus” album, in the Greek sense. The array of musicians involved is ocean-vast: Jay Hansen on drums and percussion; Randy Bermudes on fender bass; Jim Pugh on piano and organ; guitarists Chris “Kid” Andersen (who co-produces with Estrin and also performs on Moog and Mellotron), Bob Welsh, and Rusty Zinn; Terry Hanck, Nancy Wright, Frankie Ramos, and Eric Spaulding; trumpet players John Halblieb, Manny Angel, and Tom Poole; Farris Jarrah on trombone; background vocalists Lisa Leuschner Andersen, Donnie Woodruff, Will Russ, and Dennis Dove; guest pianist Nate Ginsberg; guest “Moog” synthesizer player Lorenzo Farrell; Rick Estrin on harmonica; horn arrangements and strings by Mike Rinta; Timba Harris on violin; Don Dally on viola; Nicci Welch on cello; and guest vocalist Curtis Salgado.
The following three tracks, the one original and two covers, will make blues fans go “WOW!”:
Track 05: “Not That I Care” – Our lovelorn narrator, adds these four words to all of his questions regarding his lost partner: “Does she still close her eyes when she dances?” he croons. “I just wonder – not that I care.” That latter statement is the biggest white lie some people ever tell, but Walker makes it sound like gospel truth.
Track 06: “Is That It?” –The title of sly number six is what our hero says after asking his current love why she’s leaving. Musically, this is the perfect combination of blues and jazz, not sounding exclusively like one or the other. Think of Starbucks’ Doubleshot Espresso and Cream: the two liquids and flavors blend in the right balance during this Rick Estrin song.
Track 10: “Hands of Time” – “Payback’s a ‘draaaag’,” Walker drawls in this jaunty song about karma, co-written by Andersen and Estrin. Strange: the elongated word was supposed to rhyme with “itch”. Speaking of itches, tune ten is an earworm for sure. Even a Q-tip won’t get it out.
Some say Nothing Ever Changes, but let’s hope Wee Willie Walker’s blues recognition will – from relative obscurity to ubiquity!