Artist: Big Daddy Wilson
Album: Deep in My Soul
Release date: April 19, 2019
The deal. I’m a big Muddy Waters fan, so I tend to see everything in terms of him. When I heard Big Daddy Wilson’s Deep in My Soul, my first thought was that he sounded like a sweeter Waters. Waters’ huge voice had just a hint of acidity. The slightly sharp finish is what made his vocals so enjoyable. His voice was bracing, like a stiff drink. Wilson’s voice has a similar thickness, but with a sweeter finish. If Waters was whiskey, Wilson is honey. And the vocals, as thick and as sweet as the metaphor, is what makes Deep in My Soul such a satisfying album.
The album is blues-based, but covers soul, gospel, and even country. It’s a strong mix of songs, almost all written or co-written by Wilson. The execution is also flawless. Wilson has a tight band which serves as a strong secondary character across the album. While the draw is always going to be Wilson’s rich voice, the band is right there with him. Guitarist Laura Chavez is especially impressive, perfectly supporting the songs while also getting her musical personality across. The album was recorded in the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where artists like Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin cut some amazing tracks, and that spiritual lineage seeped into the album.
The title track is especially strong, built upon a slow-and-funky guitar riff that passes the baton to the horns. The groove is huge, but despite the horns, guitar, and organ, all working together, the song still provides space to breathe, allowing Wilson’s voice the berth it needs to spread out. It also features a cool guitar solo that, while not flashy, is impressively emotive. “Voodoo” is led by wah-guitar that eventually gives way to electric piano. It’s the most straight-ahead rock tune on the album, and while it’s nowhere close to Black Sabbath, it’s cool hearing Wilson’s fog of a voice tackle a heavier track.
Straight talk. This is another example of an album that’s not breaking new ground but that’s a great listen. I won’t say it’s deliberately throwback because I don’t know Wilson’s intent, but other than the crisp production, there aren’t any nods to contemporary music. This album could have been made in 1972. And the timelessness of the songs, but also of Wilson’s voice, is what makes this so impressive.
The confession. I had this on the pile but never found an outlet. Probably because I didn’t seek one out. That never helps. To be perfectly honest, once I reviewed Big Daddy Z, I felt I needed to jump on another Big Daddy review. If you know of any other Big Daddy bands, preferably something Rue McClanahan-influenced, please drop me a line.
Closing arguments. Wilson writes, in the liner notes, about doing album pre-production with Chavez and bassist Dave Smith. The work the three did together comes across the entire album. Everyone is locked in and listening to each other. But the album doesn’t feel flat or over-rehearsed. Instead, it just feels cohesive, like everyone is always exactly where they need to be. Wilson’s a fantastic singer, but his band-management skills might give that voice a run for its money. He’s no Waters clone, but he’s got a voice Waters fans will appreciate.
So much amazing music comes out all of the time. I review what I can as quickly as I can, working my physical and digital piles as efficiently as possible, but things fall between the cracks. Rather than giving up on things that are a little past their prime, contemporary-review-standards-wise, I’m going back for the overflow that deserves to be heard — even if it’s a little late.