Wee Willie Walker - If Nothing Ever Changes
WEE WILLIE WALKER was a member of the gospel group the Redemption Harmonizers when he left Memphis and headed to Minneapolis in 1960. He defected with a fellow band mate and has kept the Twin Cities his home. Since then his voice has been featured in the Royal Jubileers, Willie & The Bees, The Valdons, Salt, Pepper & Spice, We “R,” the Butanes and along side Paul Metsa as well many other performances with the Twin Cities blues and soul contingency.
On subsequent visits back to Memphis in the 60s, Willie’s reputation landed him recording dates with the legendary Goldwax Records. He cut nine sides there and Goldwax leased four of them to Checker Records, a subsidiary of Chess Records.
Willie brought Memphis to Minneapolis. His carefree attitude is true South. His voice can be placid as the Mississippi backwaters or it can churn up the mud from its greatest depths. And it all comes so naturally for the man.
Here on his most recent release , If Nothing Ever Changes, Willie exhibits his mastery of the soul idiom. Opening with the catchy Miami soul song, “Read Between The Lines,” Walker can be an all-seeing spirited sage and then become the rogue in the Bobby Rush number, “I’ve Been Watching You.” Willie then comes back and interprets, “Not That I Care” a classic country song written by the great Cindy Walker, and makes one wonder why Ray Charles didn’t put it on either of his “Modern Sounds In Country & Western” LPs.
Producer Rick Estrin’s “Is That It,” slides Willie into an uptown groove, which Walker handles with ease. His derision in that number is as believable as his heartache in the Cindy Walker song. His ability to convey the nuances of attitude and emotion between those two compositions are an example of Willie’s prowess as a soul singer.
Willie and the band take their stab on the bent, “Funky Way,” a lesser-known gem by Georgia born Calvin Arnold. Once again, Willie is acting as an ambassador of the South, spreading the honey. Walker reaches further east than Georgia, crossing the ocean and taking on The Beatles’ “Help” with the aid of west coaster Curtis Salgado. Back in 1967, Willie cut “Ticket To Ride” for Goldwax, so this isn’t really uncharted territory.
But where Walker is really in the pocket are on the two Eddie Hinton songs, “Everybody Meets Mr. Blue,” and “Hymn for Lonely Hearts.” Hinton too was drenched in southern soul. The pairing of Eddie’s songs and Willie’s voice go together like biscuits and gravy. Wee Willie Walker brought Memphis to Minneapolis. Keep on churning. Bring it all over the world, Willie. Cry it out!
by Mike Elias, Barely Brothers Records. St. Paul, Minnesota