Toronto alt-country garage rockers the Sadies began sessions for Night & Day with legendary punk-blues wildman Andre Williams in 2008. At that time, Williams was in his seventies and dealing with a plethora of legal troubles as well as pretty heavy substance abuse issues. Eventually the sessions were put on hold while he worked through his legal problems and cleaned up. A few years later, the two factions reconvened to finish work on the album, and the difference in Williams' demeanor and state of being was, as they say, "night and day." This album continues the team-up that began with 1999's collaborative Red Dirt album, and casts Williams' dead center as a greasy narrator or unfiltered barker, humbly backed by the Sadies' respectable but comparatively squeaky clean, garagey (occasionally fiddle-driven) country-blues. Though Williams' sing/speaks about putting drugs in his past at points on the album, it's still difficult to discern the clean and sober sessions from those tracked by a still-using Williams. Moving between a happy-go-lucky rock & roll persona ("I'll Do Most Anything for Your Love), the standard My-woman-done-left-me blues-informed tales ("Me & My Dog," "Your Old Lady"), and gravely-voiced hard-living stories, Williams shakes, mutters, and howls like the rock & roll veteran he is. His performances are always unhinged, sometimes bordering on brilliant incoherence, standing in a noticeable contrast to the Sadies' controlled backing tracks. His most lucid moments come in his commentary on race and society, which several stand-out numbers on the album are dedicated to. Taking on a tone so commanding it's geared toward intimidation, Williams addresses racism and racial tension frankly on "Mississippi & Joliet" and "Bored," the latter of which starts with the powerful opening lyric "Look here, the worst thing in the world is a black man being bored and broke." "America (You Say a Change Is Gonna Come)" finds him lamenting problems in the free world in a weary grumble over pristine female backing vocals. Most tunes are relatively short, lending a somewhat cobbled-together feel to the album. Night & Day wavers between themes of fun and pain, consciousness and abandon, sobriety and confusion. Though it never feels disjointed, it never feels fully realized, either. In the end, it's hard to tell exactly what the album is aiming for, but taken as another rowdy set of tunes from a living legend, Night & Day delivers from both sides of whichever dichotomy it's grappling with at any given moment.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas