This one is for the “they don’t make soul music like that anymore” crowd. One listen to Tre Williams powerful voice will erase any doubt that he could have stood toe-to-toe with any of the heavyweights of the genre. Backed by a band that knows the ins and out of soul, and armed with a handful of powerful songs, The Revelations feat. Tre Williams have come up with another outstanding album to follow up their terrific 2009 effort, The Bleeding Edge.
Believe it or not, he first thing that strikes you about Concrete Blues is not how soulful it is, because the album comes out of the blocks rocking. The opening track, “Something’s Got To Give,” features squally, bluesy guitar playing from Wes Mingus, and you soon realize something new is afoot. Mingus continues to lend great support throughout the album (listen to his exquisite playing on “One Reason To Stay”), as does drummer Gintas Janusonis.
If you’re going to record a southern soul album, there aren’t too many better places to do it than Willie Mitchell’s Royal Recording Studio in Memphis. Not only do you get a room that is steeped in the great soul tradition, you can also make use of the talents of skilled contributors like bass guitarist James Alexander and keyboardists Charles Hodges and Lester Snell.
Concrete Blues was ably produced by Bob Perry, who is also the band’s manager. Perry worked alongside Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell (Willie’s son) on it. The team was smart enough to let the music do the talking, and to make the album sound contemporary while never losing the classic soul feel that informs it.
Not only can Tre Williams stand proudly among the best that soul music has ever produced, there are songs on Concrete Blues that can hold their own with the classics too. One of them is is the splendid cover of Johnnie Taylor’s “Don’t Wait” which features one of Williams’ greatest vocal performances. Elsewhere, “Behind These Bars,” the heartbreaking, down on his knees plea from an incarcerated man, will touch even the most hardened heart, and “How Could You Walk Away” will transport you to that dreamland that only the best soul music takes you to.
I’ve written a lot about “retro soul,” and how it compares to “neo soul.” You know what … screw all of that. The Revelations feat. Tre Williams make wonderful records, period. This music is strong enough to transcend the limits of time. It would have been great in 1967, and it’s great now. That’s what the best music does.
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