CD review: Billy Thompson – Friend
Keb Mo said he was “funkier than three day ole chitlin.'” Although he calls Fayetteville, North Carolina home, singer /guitarist Billy Thompson slings funky soul from Chicago to Memphis to New Orleans. His label, Soul Stew, is an apt description of Williams’ work.
He sounds like he’s been immersed in the blues all his life, and admits being drawn to the music of John Lee Hooker and James Cotton at an early age, but the 62 year old never played it professionally until his late 30s.Up ’till then he had fronted country western, top 40 and rockabilly outfits before ending up in Vegas backing Gary Puckett’s ’81 comeback attempt. He relocated to Nashville for a while doing studio work before finally moving to San Diego, founding the rocking blues outfit The Mighty Penguins in ’87. He’s been releasing solo projects since ’98. His latest, Friends, is a funky gumbo with ingredients from all over.
“I’m out here on the front lines/ wonder what I’m fighting for,” Thompson asks on “Soldier of Misfortune,”a funky mix of Memphis horns and a New Orleans second line rhythm lashed with Thompson’s hard core, Albert Collins style Texas blues guitar.
“Garden” features a bossa nova beat with Thompson soaring over the top with a slide worthy of Sonny Landreth.
Thompson puts out an SRV feel on “Farmer Kenny,” cool, laid back Texas soul with Rob Holloway’s sax wailing like a pissed off panther behind him.
Sounding like it just bopped out of a New Orleans second line on Mardi Gras day, “Many Faces” is an infectious mix of Sly Stone lyrical funk and Jon Cleary instrumental soul, a hanky waving strutter’s anthem boosted once again by Holloway’s foot ticklin’ honks.
Thompson adds a Latin feel to the Bill Withers classic “Ain’t No Sunshine,” featuring a window rattling, tonsil twisting falsetto outro,
He’s back in Landreth slide territory for “Satisfied,” backed by a Bo Diddley beat and some Little Feat infested keyboard tickling from Bill Payne for yet another Big Easy style throwdown.
Whether rendering soul so greasy its staining the bag its wrapped in, putting out second line fonk to strut and sip to or just blasting away wide open Texas shack shakin’ bar band style, Thompson brings it hard, fast and mighty satisfying. Ask for it by name and take some home with you today. You’ll be mighty glad you did.