William Purvis and the Seventh Sons – That Woman’s Something (The Soul Album)
Blue Memories…I Recall
24 songs – 93 minutes
With his feet planted securely in both the blues and soul community of Chicago, veteran vocalist and multi-instrumentalist William Purvis serves up a heaping helping of both on his latest project: Two parallel CD releases that individually target fans of both worlds.
A native of Charlottesville, Va., who grew up listening to Muddy Waters and Otis Redding, he’s been a fixture in the Windy City since 1990. He cut his teeth on the South and West Sides of the city, polishing his chops at the feet of guitar master Buddy Scott, frequently sitting in with his Rib Tips, and harp player Grady Freeman, a vocalist who worked with both Little Walter as well as The Aces (the legendary Louis and Dave Myers and Fred Below).
Doubling on six-string and harp himself, Purvis founded the Seventh Sons in 1992, delivering a mix of blues and R&B and releasing four albums before disbanding in 2005. After an eight-year break, William reformed the unit in 2013. The current lineup includes guitarist Mark Wydra — who’s worked with Z.Z. Hill, Liz Mandeville and was a longtime member of the Eddy Clearwater Band, upright and electric bassist Tony Wisniewski and percussionist Joel Baer.
Purvis penned eight of the 12 tunes on That Woman’s Something, a set of ‘60s-style soul that also includes two tunes penned by Mick Scott and one each from Garret Lane and Val Leventhal, while Blue Memories, like the title suggests, delivers a collection of azure-tinted covers from multiple mediums, including rock, folk and country.
Three artists make guest appearances on both discs — Brian OHern and Todd Phipps (keyboards) and Alpha Stewart (percussion) – with Joe Shive (guitar) and Thom Fishe (drums) sitting in on the blues set and Melvin “Meleo” Robinson (guitar), Peterson Ross (sax) and Mike Bowman (trumpet) on hand for the other.
A medium-tempo, percussive shuffle opens the soul set as Purvis delivers the original title cut, “That Woman’s Something,” in a pleasant, slightly weathered voice with limited range. Despite its R&B theme, Wydra rips and runs with some terrific blues runs before the tune bleeds into the horn-fueled ballad, “In Time.”
Love themes run strong and deep in “Nothing Like a Woman” and Scott’s “I Thought You’d Understand” before William continues the refrains in a run of four more of his own making: the bittersweet “If You Love Him More Than Me,” the pleasing “You Ain’t Much (But You’re Still Mine),” the haunting “Be Aware” and the powerful “Reasons to Ramble,” a classic soul-blues in which the horns shine while Purvis tries to justify his need to leave a woman he still loves.
The bright sounds that open Scott’s “Really Got the Blues Tonight” belie the message of the lyrics. But the Leventhal ballad, “Hittin’ the Wall” brings the feelings home. Two more originals – the tender “Imagine That Feeling” and medium-fast “Steal My Thunder” – bring the soul segment – which hangs together well — to a close.
The blues disc, meanwhile, is far more inconsistent, opening with a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Factory Girl,” which is delivered with slightly strained vocal and slide guitar accompaniment. William’s on harp for Lowell Fulson’s familiar “Room with a View,” which drags as a ballad, before a pleasant, uptempo take on Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Better Cut That Out.” Up next, Willie Clayton’s “Three People (Sleeping in My Bed)” fails in an arrangement that strips it of its soulful delivery in favor of a speedy treatment that robs of most of its feel.
Purvis successfully reworks folkie Fred Neil’s “Blues on the Ceiling” and country star Mel McDaniel’s “Roll Your Own” before a solid, true-blue take on Chuck Berry’s “I Need You Baby.” An acoustic reinvention of Isaac Hayes’ “I Take What I Want” – a huge hit for Sam and Dave in 1965 – lacks the substance of the original before an interesting version complete with Spanish-style guitar of “Lord You Made the Night Too Long,” a song recorded by both Bing Crosby and Dean Martin.
The action concludes with equally inconsistent takes of St. Louis Jimmy Oden’s “The Dog House Blues,” Tampa Red’s “The Witching Hour Blues” and the John Lennon-Paul McCartney rocker, “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
Available from Amazon and Apple Music, That Woman’s Something is a pleaser recommended for fans of traditional Chicago soul-blues. Blue Memories, meanwhile, is easy to forget.