ANDRE WILLIAMS & THE SADIES team up for NXNE on June 15, midnight, at the Horseshoe. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Andre Williams is a pivotal figure in R&B, garage, punk and sleaze rock, but between co-writing songs for Stevie Wonder, charting on Billboard and inspiring a generation of rockers from Jack White to the Dirtbombs, he also spent time mired in drugs and crime.
That was the Williams who showed up to record with Toronto country-rock institution the Sadies in 2008 - strung out, missing his bottom dentures and dodging jail time. Under the musical direction of blues-exploder Jon Spencer, the then-70-year-old cut a gritty, warts-and-all blues record complete with deep, slurred vocals and caustic lyrics that don't sugarcoat his struggles and openly doubt Sam Cooke's famous A Change Is Gonna Come optimism.
Four years later, a cleaned-up Williams reconnected with the Sadies to record Side B of Night & Day (i.e., Day), a much cleaner, country-fried R&B stomp that showcases a singer thankful for his lot in life, and his life, period. Both sides are endearing in their own way, and both show off a musical legend with plenty left to say.
Top track: America (You Say "A Change Is Gonna Come")