Wet Willie: Keep on Smilin’

wetwillie_keeponsmilinFunky southern rock and soul from 1974

Wet Willie hit simultaneous commercial and artistic high points on this 1974 album, their fourth of seven for the Capricorn label. The Mobile, Alabama band cuts a funkier, more gospel-inspired groove than its label mates, which included Southern rock standard bearers like the Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker Band, and their songs are more lyrically focused and concise. Singer Jimmy Hall has a rich, punchy delivery that often soars in a preacher’s shout, and the backing vocals of the Williettes give the group the Southern edge of Stax and Muscle Shoals. The album’s single, “Keep on Smiling,” offers a lasting message of optimism with a memorable rhythm guitar riff, sweet harmonica solo and a backing choir that lifts the song to the heavens. Though it was the group’s only trip to the pop top ten, it was far from the album’s only jewel, as the opener provides a warm celebration of country life, and the James Brown horn funk “Soul Sister” gives the Williettes a chance to step up front. Hall also sings blue-eyed soul, such as the homespun ballad “Alabama,” and digs deep on the mid-tempo “Lucy Was in Trouble.” The group’s follow-up, Dixie Rock, continued in the same vein, and the pair of albums were issued as a two-fer. If you dig the studio works, you should also check out the group’s live album Drippin’ Wet for a taste of their jams. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

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