RJ Spangler

You Know I Can't Refuse: The Bill Heid Sessions

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When Bill Heid spent some 15 years living in Metro Detroit, the community was endeared to his brutal honesty, comedic personality, and especially his extraordinary talent as a jazz and blues vocalist and keyboardist. Founder of the Blues Insurgents that backed up veteran Johnnie Bassett, Heid went on to recordings with his beloved Hammond B-3, worked extensively in Japan, and moved to Washington, D.C. Drummer R.J. Spangler corralled Heid on a trip back to Detroit for this recording, showcasing the songs that Heid has performed regularly as a pianist and blues vocalist. Help from Bassett, a three-man horn section with trumpeter James O'Donnell, baritone saxophonist Joshua James, and centerpiece saxophonist Keith Kaminski, and bassist Pat Prouty gives Heid the soulful foundation he desires to cut loose on the nutty keyboard lines and chords that can only be derived from sheer genius. His gritty singing is also full of wild abandon, but there's a sly sincerity lurking about somewhere that is in the main charming, even though unabashedly rough and tumble. The title track is a signature tune for Heid, written by Andre Williams and done here in a calypso shuffle by the fine and diverse drummer Spangler. Even more a part of Heid, as he is very fond of tunes by Jimmy Witherspoon, "Times Getting Tougher Than Tough" is a rallying cry for work-strapped Detroiters, a classic shuffle that really lets Heid cut loose vocally. "Falling by Degrees" is another 'Spoon original, this time more downtrodden even though the slower pace does not deter Heid from ramping up his piano phrases. There are sexually suggestive lyrics to Floyd Dixon's slickster song "Red Cherries," the subtle, late-night encouragement of Dixon's "Baby Let's Go Down to the Woods," and especially the Lieber & Stoller evergreen "Too Much Jelly Roll" as Heid sings about "too much jelly in a double bed" as the song bounces along with the horn complement. The "short-a-buck" Sonny Boy Williamson evergreen "Ninety Nine" is a good-time shuffle with Bassett close at hand on guitar, Louis Jordan's "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town" is well-worn but still satisfying, and "Piney Brown Blues" is straight out of the Kansas City style, with Heid's vocal a bit strained. The lone Heid original, "Boogie for Mr. B," shows that not only is Heid skilled at any blues style you toss his way, but he can riff off the cuff with anybody. As formidable a musician in any scene or genre worldwide, Bill Heid proves once again that he's not only at the top of his game, but ready to pitch repeat complete games no matter where he is. This fine Detroit-based band serves him and the blues connoisseur quite well, on a highly recommended recording for everyone to savor and enjoy.

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