Album Review: The Little Willies - "For the Good Times"
For the Good Times
Standing at the crossroads of Roy Buchanan and Roy Nichols, Tele ace Jim Campilongo has forged an original, vibrant style that blends blues, honky tonk, Western swing, and Memphis R&B. And as the lead guitarist in the Little Willies—a quintet that features Norah Jones on piano and vocals— Campilongo gets to thread his strange and beautiful lines into great songs performed by a superb acoustic ensemble.
For the Good Times, the band’s second album, is a collection of country and honky tonk classics by the likes of Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, and Lefty Frizzell. Using soulful, uncluttered arrangements, the band presents the album’s 12 songs with the vocals and lyrics front and center. But wait—what’s that wailing in the background?
Oh yeah, Campilongo’s edgy Tele. He knows all the tricks—and has invented a few of his own—as is immediately apparent in “Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves.” Snarling behind-the- nut bends, whistling harmonics, neck shimmy, and volume-knob wah—it’s all here.
In “Wide Open Road,” Campilongo plays oddball phrases with a bright, slightly frazzy tone to show us how they do chicken pickin’ on Mars. He manages to pull off Les Paulstyle harmonized lines sans overdubs in “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time.” His twangy solo in “Remember Me” echoes both Duane Eddy and the modern master of the “low, lonesome” sound, Richard Bennett. In “I Worship You,” Campilongo alternates string-popping runs with steel-like fills, and in “Fist City,” he plays snappy honky-tonk riffs worthy of Don Rich.
Campilongo reveals his jazz chops in Quincy Jones’ swinging “Foul Owl on the Prowl,” outlining the changes with smoky double-stops and sly leading tones. He even squeezes in an original instrumental—“Tommy Rockwood”—a wacky tune paying homage to tracks Merle Haggard’s band the Strangers recorded when their boss was on a break.
This is perfect music for kicking back and enjoying some quality quiet time with a friend. The songs are timeless, the vocals gorgeous, the musicianship first-rate, and Campilongo’s toneful Tele keeps everything delightfully quirky. —Andy Ellis
Must-hear track: “‘Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves”