Graham Reid | | 1 min read
By the time Wee Willie Walker – who stands not too far over five foot in his bare feet – recorded this soul classic for the Goldwax label in Memphis the days of the great soul singers was almost at an end.
Sure Al Green, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin and so on were still right there, and Otis lived on in the memory, but the world was changing and black music was heading in new directions too.
But Walker out of Minnesota possessed one of those great aching, rough'n'smooth vocals ideally suited to songs of heartbreak, and of course he'd come from the gospel tradition when he was a teenager.
Apparently he recorded nine songs for Goldwax (an odd number, literally) and went unpaid other than being given a box of his own singles to sell.
Although he held down day jobs in Minneapolis and raised a family, Walker never stopped singing (the very young Prince used to stop by and sit in with his band) and this year something extraordinary and long overdue happened. At 76 his album After A While with the Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra out of San Francisco was nominated for five Blues Music Awards in Memphis.
He'd been nominated before (for three categories in 2015) . . . but for five awards?
So while we acknowledge his terrific There Goes My Used to Be of more than 50 years ago we also throw the spotlight on After A While where he sounds in remarkable form on material which sounds timeless (Hate Take a Holiday). It opens with the terrific Second Chance and closes with Your Good Thing Is About to End which was a hit for Lou Rawls around the time Walker was back in Minneapolis and working the day job.
Many of the songs here on this damn fine soul album are co-written by Christine Vitale, guitarist Paule's partner for almost four decades and she certainly knows how to pen material that Walker can inhabit.
He does go a bit niteclub (Look What They've Done to Me) and every now and again this does sound a little dated (Lovey Dovey is an unworthy vehicle) but for most of these 13 songs you feel you are in the presence of someone who has grown into these (Romance in the Dark) and is touching those rare and soul-filed places.
Cannot Be Denied, by Wee Willie Walker from After a While
After a While by Wee Willie Walker and the Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra is on Blue Dot (through Border in New Zealand)