A band called The Hungry Williams…no-one called William, no-one from Hungry (!); what and why you may ask. Well, the name is derived from one of the most respected drummers of the New Orleans scene, who also appeared on many, many recordings in the 50s, early 60s when he was the go to drummer for the Ace Records studio band: Charles “Hungry” Williams was a hugely skilled player; innovative and attention grabbing with his ‘polyphonic’ approach and hi left-handed style was self-taught and so he didn’t know that ‘he shouldn’t be doing that!’ The Hungry Williams band leader, John Carr, is a drummer too and thought his name embodied the freestyle and New Orleans ‘jump and swing’ the band bring to the stage and studio….no argument here, as the whole of Brand New Thing is imbued with jump blues and good old R’n’B mainly firmly rooted in the 50s. Even the cover pays homage with its warm and cinematic picture of a starlet and a Felix (the cat) like character whose adage is “Jump! Swing! Meow!”
The fifteen track, forty-five minute running time is a generous mix of originals, obvious and not so obvious covers all of which go the Hungry’s vintage but modern treatment. Take opener and title track, Brand New Thing; written by john Sieger (in the 80s (not that you’d notice)) opens with harmony sax and develops into a true 50s floor filler as Kelli lays down aptly toned vocals and the band have a ball with piano, saxes and guitar having their very enjoyable solos. Special attention to the bass and Hungry drums (cowbell too!) add to the vintage feel.
The swing continues on a song by vocalist Kelli and she certainly captures that feel too; both vocally and lyrically. Hook Line and Sinker originally came out in 1956 from Smiley Lewis: the band do it justice with added bite in the sax solo.
Where’s My Baby? is a lesser known song by Eddie Bo recorded in ’57 but not released for a few years: here it is a slower swinger just oozing atmosphere…and a nice piano solo. Whole Lotta Shakin ‘Goin’ On was a big hit for Jerry Lee Lewis in ’57 (although Big Maybelle released it first in ’55). The Hungry’s cleverly use the Big Maybelle version as the root rather than the frantic histrionics of Jerry Lee and it is the stronger for it in my humble as I always preferred the original original…I should point out here that this is from researching music and not from being there at the time and I was actually born four days after Sputnik one was launched!)
Baby Don’t Do It comes from the oft covered band of the 50s, The Five Royales and thesis a faithful version with a neat modern edge. Go on Fool is Smiley Lewis again and (apart from wanting to say/sing “Are You Ready Steve, Andy, Mick…”) it is the drums that pin this one so nicely. We go even further back for the ’49 song, For You My Love by Paul Gayten. Very much of its time but again updated delightfully by this skilful band. Wild Wild Young Men is up next and has a fascinating back story: credited to Nugetre, it is the later ego (and an anagram) of a certain Mr Ertegun…Mr Ahmet Ertegun that is, he of Atlantic Records fame. He wrote a load of songs and this one was a minor hit for Rose Maddox in ’55. Another clever update and a n excellent guitar and piano solo to make it even fresher.
Stick a Pin in the Voodoo Doll is an original from the pen and plectrum of Joe Vent: firmly rooted in the 50s with a real swing and great sure brush work…and an ingenious Hanky solo from Joe that is woefully short.
No More Heartaches from Sugarboy Crawford is more recent (’76, I think) but still maintains the R’n’B vintage vibe. It’s Raining Outside is again a mid-fifties song, this time from (Sister) Wynona Carr and is very much typical of the songs of that period; the basic rhythms and vocal motifs surfaced on may records by many artists…still good to hear though.
Whip It on Me by Jessie Hill was a new one on me; from 1960, a piano, sax led song by him, a similar treatment here as Joe takes the vocals and the Beatle-esque structure is fascinating, even though this was little earlier…hmmm!
The penultimate track, When I Meet My Boy necessarily changed gender for Kelli; a ’57 song from Tommy Ridgley done fresh but faithful. The final track leaves us with a great Blues Brothers style work out as the Hungry’s update and dance their way to the end with Don and Dewey’s ’64 song, Get Your Hat and Kelli And Joe refresh it by doing it as a nicely toned duet.
Although way more rhythm and blues than blues, this is still a thoroughly enjoyable album and if the 50s R’n’B scene was/is your scene then you are going to love every second of this professional and capable update.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws for the true (50s) Rhythm and Blues lover, this has it all…jump, swing and the occasional meow!
Track listing (composers):
Brand New Thing (John Sieger)
Everybody Loves Me (Why Don’t You?) (Kelli Gonzalez)
Hook Line and Sinker (Dave Bartholomew, Pearl King)
Where’s My Baby? (Edwin Bocage)
Whole Lotta Shakin ‘Goin’ On (David Williams)
Baby Don’t Do It (Lowman Pauling)
Go on Fool (Bartholomew, Dorothy Ester)
For You My Love (Paul Gayten)
Wild Wild Young Men (Nugetre)
Stick a Pin in the Voodoo Doll (Joe Vent)
No More Heartaches (James Crawford Jr)
It’s Raining Outside (Wynona Carr)
Whip It on Me (Jessie Hill)
When I Meet My Boy (Lee F Allen, Thomas H Ridgley (originally When I Meet My Girl))
Get Your Hat (Don F Harris, Dewey Terry Jr)
John Carr: drums
Kelli Gonzalez: vocals
Mike Sieger: bass
Joe Vent: guitar
Jack Stewart: keyboards
Troy Leisemann: tenor sax
Julia Bustle: baritone sax
Bob Jennings: baritone sax
(The iTunes run on track brought me some truly excellent rock that may sound like the 70s but is a brilliantly conceived rock masterpiece from 2020 by the lovely named Hunted By Elephants and their Carry On album.)