The Revelations feat. Tre Williams | Concrete Blues

The Revelations - Concrete Blues

The Revelations feat. Tre Williams | Concrete Blues
By Peggy Oliver

Tre Williams was one of the most coveted voices in the millennium hip-hop nation collaborating with Wu-Tang Clan, Petey Pablo, and Nas, as well as the focal point for a mix tape on Nas’ Ill Will Records: Street Gospel: The Old Test of Men. Though Williams kept company in the hip-hop field for a few years, he eventually pursued an avenue to express his voice on a solo level. Fueled by his biggest inspirations Otis Redding, Johnnie Taylor and others, Williams has been preaching his own southern fried message since he formed The Revelations, with the assistance of producer Bob Perry. Their debut, The Bleeding Edge, in 2009 served a delicious plate of sixties and seventies soul inspired by Atlantic, Hi and Stax Records; stamped with street machismo and Williams’ and co-lead vocalist Rel’s gritty narratives that captured deeply personal tales of love lost and found. Despite little commercial success, The Bleeding Edge was a welcome alternative to the mainstream R&B fare that lacked organic flair and passionate vocals and won over the devoted underground urban fan base.

With a nearly two year absence, three core member of The Revelations and Williams return for Concrete Blues; a happy medium between sprinklings of contemporary R&B and plenty of southern soul. Though Tre’s vocal partner in crime Rel is missing, the classic grooves and Tre’s no holds barred tenor still provides plenty of gusto. Beside Revelations’ members Williams, guitarist Wes Mingus and drummer Gintas Janusonis who recorded Concrete Blues at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios (guided by Mitchell’s son Lawrence and Bob Perry), they are aided by southern soul cats like bass guitarist James Alexander and keyboardists Charles Hodges and Lester Snell. In adding another dimension to their lyrical repertoire, Williams and The
Revelations dedicate part of Concrete Blues to relevant issues of humanity.

Williams certainly knows how to connect with audiences so they can relate to stressful situations. The opener “Something’s Got to Give” rocks the house with some nifty slide guitar while addressing the frustrations responsible people face in everyday life: “He’s willing to work/Ain’t no work/So there’s got to be a misunderstanding.” On the title track, there are the claims of gas prices rising and concerns about surviving the tough times: “Life ain’t never been fair” underneath a smooth blues soundtrack. “Trouble Man,” anchored by a scorching guitar solo from Mingus, emphasizes with one trying to stay focused and strong no matter what life tosses them: “But through it all I carry the weight/I have no time to worry bout what people think.” One of the most appealing storylines on Concrete Blues is “Behind These Bars,” where the tormented thoughts of someone behind bars run wild: “It’s hard loving somebody behind these bars.”

For a slight change of pace, the rhythmic R&B ballad “How Could You Walk Away,” driven by hypnotic piano loops, begins the second cycle on Concrete Blues that centers on romantic love. But it is that southern soul cooking where Williams lets it all vocally hang out for “One Reason To Stay” – “I changed my life…my heart…my world all for you” – “I Gotta Have It” – I’m
trying to play by the rules” and “Lonely Room” about filling up that cup of love to the brim. As for the covers, Williams and The Revelations revisits one of the more obscure yet appreciated blues singers in modern history, Ronnie Lovejoy, with “Until You Get Enough of Me.” The brass section adds some spark to this slow simmering jam to those places that “only you and I know.” And there are plenty of funky strings, flute breaks and reverb guitar gently stroking the Johnnie Taylor classic, “Don’t Wait.”

For those who want a refresher on Williams & The Revelations’ debut bow, there are three encores from The Bleeding Edge: “Everybody Knows,” the remake of Lattimore’s “Let’s Straighten It Out” and “I Don’t Want To Know.”

On Concrete Blues, Williams & The Revelations strikes again with a hefty second helping of raw, untainted music for the soul. And it is more than apparent that Williams continues to largely embrace his childhood heroes in Redding and Taylor that eptimized the southern soul movement oh so long ago.

Five out of five stars.

Peggy Oliver
The Urban Music Scene