Wet Willie ‘Keep on Smilin’

wetwillie
Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#461 in the Series is Wet Willie, Keep On Smilin.’

There’s often a common theme among many of the write-ups that I do. That theme is how an album stands up to time. Mind you, that usually has little to no effect on what I write because I try to write about how I felt about an album when it was released. How it fit into the times, what was on the radio, how it affected what was happening in my life etc.

This is one that stands up to time much better than most. Often it’s not the band’s fault if something sucks now that was good once before, it’s more about how my tastes have changed.  I think Wet Willie’s Keep On Smilin’ still sounds great.

Wet Willie was part of that great southern rock roster on Capricorn Records. It was famous for bringing us such great acts as The Allman Brothers, Grinderswitch, Marshall Tucker Band, Elvin Bishop and many more bands from the south. Wet Willie called Mobile, Alabama home.

Listening back to this album, Wet Willie was far from just a southern-rock band. If you’re calling them that, you perhaps are doing them a disservice. They actually liked the term “Dixie Rock.”

There was more than a hint of blues here, but what really separated them from the straight southern rock acts was the amount of Gospel in their tunes. I’ve heard a ton of gospel in bluegrass and country, but not as much in southern rock.  Many of the hard drinkin’ southern boys were not big fans of gospel music don’t ya know…

It was written by guitarist Ricky Hirsch, as was “Country Side of Life.” Another Hirsch song, This album was home to what was easily Wet Willie’s most well-known tune. That would be the ever-optimistic “Keep On Smilin.” I wasn’t sure how I’d like that one now but it still sounds great, if not better.  Another track to my liking is the opening cut “Country Side Of Life” …Put on your brakes, beep beep, honk your horn, look out now, turn on your blinker.. gotta love it!!

“Alabama” was a great acoustic ballad that really showed the softer side of the great Jimmy Hall’s voice. It was written by guitarist Ricky Hirsch, as was “Country Side of Life.” Another Hirsch song, “Lucy Was In Trouble” sounds a bit like another Capricorn band, Sea Level. That’s a good thing.  Look for a nice long live version of this in the video playlist below.

One last song to mention is “In Our Hearts,” this is a fun, album closing, instrumental jam that highlights Jimmy Hall’s sax playing along with the rhythm section of bassist Jack Hall (Jimmy’s bro) and drummer Lewis Ross (By the way Lewis, I know where you learned the Bernard Purdie licks). John Anthony on keyboards, Earl Ford adding trombone, along with  Donna Hall and Joyce Knight on vocals, filled out the remainder of the line up.

These guys are still out there. Look for ‘em!  Here’s their OFFICIAL Web Site

— Larry Carta

Track Listing

  1. Country Side of Life – (Hirsch, Hirsch) 3:29
  2. Keep on Smilin’–(Anth/y, Hall, Hirsch, Ross) 3:56
  3. Trust in the Lord (Duke) 3:10
  4. Soul Sister – (Anthony, Avery) 4:54
  5. Alabama – (Hirsch, Hirsch) 3:24
  6. Lucy Was in Trouble – (Hirsch, Hirsch) 3:38
  7. Soul Jones – (Anthony, Hall Hirsch, Ross) 4:01
  8. Don’t Wait Too Long – (Anthony) 3:05
  9. Spanish Moss (Hirsch, Hirsch) – 3:43
  10. In Our Hearts (Anthony, Hirsch) – 4:24

Personnel

  • John Anthony – Keyboards, Percussion Vocals
  • Earl Ford – Electric Trombone, Trombone
  • Donna Hall – Background Vocals
  • Jack Hall – Banjo, Bass, Background Vocals
  • Jimmy Hall – Harmonica, Percussion, Saxophone, Vocals
  • Ricky Hirsch – Guitar, Background Vocals
  • Joyce Knight  – Background Vocals
  • Lewis Ross – Drums, Percussion
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Posted by Larry Carta


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