Aaron Williams & the Hoodoo
I really enjoyed It Ain't Easy, the first release from Aaron Williams & the Hoodoo. And in July I finally had the chance to see them live when they did the opening set at the Sterling Main Street Blues fest. The trio played with a full-throttle intensity captured the attention of the crowd and garnered several standing ovations.
Much of their set that day was material from their new release, which shows the band at their best. Williams is an energetic guitar player and a commanding singer. He gets support from Eric Shackelford on drums and Z on bass and percussion. Both men handle the lead vocal on several cuts. Special guest Jimmy Voegeli adds his dynamic keyboard efforts throughout the disc.
The title track is an acoustic piece with Williams sharp slide guitar licks contrasting nicely with Ken Olufs country-style harmonica playing. The two men share the lead vocal as they describe the pain felt at the end of a failed love affair. The band then cranks up the volume on “Devil's Playground”, with Williams getting a dark, menacing sound from his cigar box guitar. Shackelford sings with conviction on his original, “Red Head Woman” with Voegeli pounding away on the piano. Williams once again coaxes a mammoth tone out of his cigar box instrument on “Boom Boom”.
The group attacks “Sick and Tired with buzz-saw guitars and throbbing bass that gives you an idea of how the Dave Bartholomew classic would have sounded like if the Ramones had ever covered the song. Even when the pace slows, the group maintains their fiery intensity as Williams delivers a passionate vocal on “My Turn”. Voegeli fleshes out the arrangement on the organ, creating a haunting mood that is punctuated by another dazzling solo from Williams. “It Is What It Is” has a propulsive rhythmic foundation and Z lets everyone know that he too is a talented singer.
Williams plays some Elmore James style slide guitar on “Let Me Love You” and Z brings some funk to the proceedings on his original tune, “Tease Me, Please Me”. The closing track, “She's Good at What She Does”, sounds similar to a number of other songs on the disc and fails to generate much excitement despite another strong contribution from Voegeli on the organ.
Williams, Shackelford and Z bring plenty of youthful energy to the stage – and have managed to capture much of that exuberance on this recording. They have won numerous MAMA awards (Madison Area Music Awards) including top honors as the 2010 Artist of Year, a testament to the loyal fan base the band has built up their hometown. Don't let this one slip by – give Aaron Williams & the Hoodoo a chance to rock your world!!
Reviewed by Mark Thompson