From the moment I put Willie & the Bandits sixth studio release ‘Paths’ into the car CD player (yes, we still do that sometimes) and heard the intro I knew this could be special.
As ‘One Way’ went into the verse I was hit with a refreshing sound that also had a vaguely familiar feel. It felt like ZZ Top was having a three-way affair with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Label Society. It’s catchy groove and socially aware lyrics draws you in and then boom – I was smacked with lead singer Willie’s powerful vocals. My first thought was oh my god he has a tone similar to the late Chris Cornell and knows how to really use it. The ridiculous musical talent of this band is blatantly apparent on this track and what a way to kick off an album. It was at this point I read the press release and realised that they are from Cornwall UK not the US as I first thought.
The second track ‘Make Love’ drags you straight back to the 60’s with a feel of Creedence Clearwater Revival but with a drum pattern that had me tapping my feet from the get go. What is easy to make out is they have used some excellent vintage gear in the recording of this album. Track three ‘Victim of the night’ takes you on a modern blues journey with a Hammond Organ ensuring you don’t deviate from your path. The guitars on this track wouldn’t be out of place at a Brian Setzer gig. Four Million Days opens with some wonderfully picked guitar and haunting strings. As the vocals come in you immediately feel that this song is going to build and build and take you with it, so that by the time it gets to the chorus you feel like your back with an old familiar friend who you have known all your life and makes you happy to be around. I found myself singing along way after listening to it. Track five ‘Chakra’ kicks off with a sort of’ seventies surf vibe meets ‘world music’ with a really catchy hook. It has real natural feel and the chorus lyrics really makes you think about what is going on the world. The sixth track on this album (Keep it on the down low) displays Willie and the Bandits diversity has it has a Southern feel with a type of Rap, staccato vocal. How long is the seventh album track and its clear that Chris Cornell has inspired the track and is dedicated to him. The song deals with the serious issue of depression and the journey and time it takes to regain control. Track 9 (Find my Way) is a ‘fuzz fest’ with a heavy seventies vibe. One of my favourite tracks on the album. Watch you Grow is another track with world music influences, showcasing even more diversity and talent dealing with becoming a parent. The final track on the album Retribution starts of with a gentle guitar riff that wouldn’t be out of place on any rock album from the sixties. The vocal has a sort of vulnerability that really captivates you. The use of a Lap Slide reinforces the retro influences but doesn’t make it out of place in modern music.
To summarise this is an absolutely cracking album that showcases the guys talents but without being pretentious. The theme throughout deals with real issues and problems that are going on in the world, and just as you think you understand where the songs are going they throw in a musical twist to keep you on your toes. Whoever said Rock N Roll is dead obviously hasn’t heard Willie & the Bandits!