FIRE IN MY SOUL: The debut solo album by vintage Detroit singer Willie Jones says a lot about him and his life. As Willie recalls ; “Jon sent me some tracks and I wrote some songs. I write from experience. I’ve been around since 1936 so I have a whole lot of that to call on!”.
Taken to the hit songwriter / producer Jon Tiven by award winning soul singer Bettye LaVette, Willie made the recordings as if he’s never been away. Said Jon “I hadn’t heard Willie before, but I loved him, his voice is in fantastic shape. He came to Nashville, we did the sessions and we had a blast!”
Bettye and Willie go way back, and a clue to Willie’s gravitas comes from this reminiscence of Bettye when Jones was visiting someone in a Detroit hospital. In the next bed was Bettye LaVette, recovering from the birth of her child : “It was eleven o’clock in the morning, and in comes this guy wearing a black mohair suit, black patent leather shoes, red socks and a red silk handkerchief in his top pocket, his hair in waves – I had never seen anything like it except on television.” Following this chance meeting Willie then helped Bettye get started in the music business, and wrote a song on her first single for Atlantic Records.
Others have been swift to acknowledge Willie’s grand persona and talent by collaborating with him and Jon in the recording of the album.
“Willie is one of the most inspiring and deserving artists I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Hearing Willie Jones sing a song you wrote is like winning an interpretive lottery.What a voice! I was delighted that what we came up with became a part of this wonderful record.” – Jon Auer (The Posies)
“Willie Jones is the secret heart of Detroit Soul, and now that secret is out.” – Cheetah Chrome (The Dead Boys)
“It’s so great to hear Willie Jones, making music again! A voice that helped define RnB.” – Felix Cavaliere
Legendary Stax guitarist Steve Cropper co-wrote the title track with Willie and played on the sessions. Also bowled over was Black Francis of The Pixies /Frank Black and the song Janie, Turn It Over was transformed when the pair of them traded vocal lines. To cap it all there is the debt repaid by Bettye LaVette dueting with Willie on Without Redemption.
With ‘Fire In My Soul’ the sum of it’s parts is a hugely engaging, easily accessible, and thoroughly rewarding listen on a unified album of life affirming songs, with huge cross over potential for young and old, rock ,soul and blues fans.
It is a long way from the Detroit choir Willie sang in at the turn of the 1950s with fellow choristers Jackie Wilson, Little Willie John and Della Reese, and the first single recorded with the rhythm and blues group The Royal Jokers for Atlantic in 1955. A decade of recording singles and touring followed, and when the recordings dried up just the touring, which continued for the next 40 years.
Now the Royal Joker has returned with an album for the decks, in a pack of the sharpest songs and players of the game.