The Hungry Williams – Brand New Thing
15 tracks/45.42 minutes
The Hungry Williams are from Wisconsin and play unashamedly retro music with great enthusiasm. Brand New Thing is their full-length album debut and features three originals alongside a feast of music, mainly from the 50’s and early 60’s. The core band is led by John Carr 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 three saxes, Troy Leisemann on tenor and Julia Bustle and Bob Jennings on baritone. The title track opens proceedings and immediately establishes what the band is all about with Kelli sounding sassy over rolling piano and honking saxes. The song was written by local songwriter, John Sieger, brother of bassist Mike, and was originally recorded in 1986 when the brothers were in a band called R&B Cadets. Kelli wrote “Everybody Loves Me (Why Don’t You)” and guitarist Joe contributes “Stick A Pin In The Voodoo Doll”, a short cut with a more poppy feel. The band clearly has an affinity with New Orleans music and we get two songs which were originally hits for Smiley Lewis in 1956, both written by Dave Bartholomew, “Hook, Line And Sinker” and “Go On Fool”. There is also James
Crawford Jr’s “No More Heartaches” and Eddie Bo’s “Where’s My Baby”; most of these songs come in at under three minutes but “Where’s My Baby” is extended to over five and has room for piano, guitar and tenor solos played over a fine, strolling rhythm.
The oldest song here is “For You My Love”, written by Paul Gayten and originally recorded in 1949 by Larry Darnell. The song has been covered more than thirty times, including versions by Nat King Cole, Pearl Bailey, Ray Sharpe, Robert Lockwood Jr, James Brown and Duke Robillard! The Hungry Williams sound great, even among such esteemed company. Ruth Brown is probably something of a model for Kelli and Ruth’s “Wild Wild Young Men” suits her style perfectly.
“Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” will always be remembered from Jerry Lee Lewis but his version was ‘adapted’ from the original written by David ‘Curlee’ Williams and recorded by Big Maybelle in 1955; the band takes the song back to the original and it sounds terrific with the baritones providing a solid bottom end over which Jack plays some fine, rocking piano. The 5 Royales’ “Baby Don’t Do It” is a slower-paced number but the band gets back to rocking on Wynona Carr’s doo-wop influenced “It’s Raining Outside”, one of three songs towards the end of the album to feature Bob’s baritone. Joe sings lead on “Whip It On Me” by Jesse Hill (probably best remembered for “Ooh Poo Pah Doo”) and shares the vocals on album closer, Don & Dewey’s “Get Your Hat” which is from 1964 and therefore counts as the ‘newest’ of the covers! With one foot in the Crescent City and one in early rock and roll, The Hungry Williams have made a thoroughly entertaining disc which anyone who has a love for the sounds of 50’s Rn’B will adore!
Reviewed by John Mitchell