Andre Williams, Hoods and Shades, Bloodshot Records

  • Bloodshot Records

Detroit R&B survivor Zephire "Andre" Williams teams up with guitarist Dennis Coffey, upright bass player Don Was, electric bass player Jim Diamond, and drummer Jim White for this earthy effort. The cover art promises blaxploitation sleaze, but there's more restraint here than self-indulgence. Fittingly, he's described his fourth Bloodshot release as "the Andre Williams folk album.”

Though there's plenty of electric guitar on tap, acoustic takes center stage. And when Coffey lays down his funky licks, he resists the urge to crank it up, which keeps the focus on Williams, an unpolished singer with personality to spare.

A highlight from his years on Chess Records.

Among his achievements: Williams has recorded for Motown, Chess and Fortune, written and produced for Ike Turner, Mary Wells, Edwin Starr, Stevie Wonder and Parliament-Funkadelic, and penned and performed down and dirty R&B sides "Jail Bait," "Shake a Tail Feather" and the Cramps favorite "Bacon Fat."

As with talk-singing peers Blowfly and Gil Scott-Heron, who collaborated with Jamie xx on his final album, a younger generation discovered the outspoken entertainer in the late-1990s, helping to bring him to national awareness after decades of cult obscurity. Since then, he's worked with the Demolition Doll Rods, the Dirtbombs, the New Orleans Hellhounds, and the Sadies.

  • Bloodshot Records

On Hoods and Shades, Williams shares hard-fought wisdom about his life on the streets. As he sings on dope dealer's lament "A Good Day to Feel Bad"—counterpoint to Cube's "Today Was a Good Day"—"Your lady's out there double dealing, because you're stealing." (He references another L.A. rapper on track #3 when he sings, "I've got money on my mind." Those are the only lyrics.)

On other songs, he shines a spotlight on a lady from Louisiana (original Motown number "Mojo Hannah"), a fellow jailbird ("Swamp Dogg's Hot Spot"), and young miscreants in hoodies and sunglasses ("Hoods and Shades"). As Greg Kihn once sang, "They don't write 'em like that anymore." Williams may be 75 and Coffey 71, but they've held on to the spark that made them exciting in the first place.

Bloodshot Records releases Hoods and Shades on February 28, 2012.