CD Review – William Pilgrim “The Great Recession”
What’s not to like about a formerly homeless black guy who sounds like a crusty blend of Hank Williams 111 and Kid Rock, gritty and nasty, with the raw street sound of Ted Hawkins. William Pilgrim is the band,(actually a duo with partner/producer PM Romero providing guitars, keys and percussion) named after the Kurt Vonnegut novel. Ishmael (call me Ish) Herring is the voice of this beast from L.A. But there ain’t no California dreamin’ here. This stuff is rough trade, shitkicker fare made for dancin’ and fightin’ in a joint with chicken wire in front of the bandstand and the sound of bustin’ bottles for harmony.
Although the theme is the Recession, there’s no whining going on here. It’s more of a joyous window rattling rage at the state of the union. It’s protest music all right, but Herring ain’t no Woody Guthrie.
“Farewell” recalls ’70s stoner rockers Dr. Hook stumbling across the McCrary Sisters and having their way with them musically and otherwise.
An unusual blend of western swing and ’70s pop, “Beautiful” features a vocal like Jim Croce with a head full of acid.
“Race Car ” channels Sly Stone as Herring reveals he once wanted to be a racer car driver, a fire chief, a baseball star, and a deep sea diver. But his current squeeze, who he admits is a full time job, ain’t having any of it: “my baby don’t buy that shit,” Herring growls. She keeps asking “where’s my first class seat/ cause money is the only thing.”
“Run” sounds like a Bob Seeger impersonation by Kid Rock, a retro arena anthem fit for waving your lighter, not your cell phone, high over your head in tribute.
It’s country music, but the country is Africa. Herring sounds like a soul man in a cowboy hat, showing roots from a bit further South. Here’s what county music needs struttin’ across its stages and rippling out over its airwaves instead of the auto-tuned pop that passes for entertainment coming out of Nashville these days.
But this music is too diverse to lurk in one category. There’s plenty here to go around, a record full of chart hoppers that just need a leg up. Given the opportunity, it’s William Pilgrim’s time to leap.