Photographer: Matthew Smith.
While the conventional wisdom in Michigan has it that the City of Detroit is slowly but surely making a comeback, Andre Williams isn't quite having that. Heading back to his old home town, Williams discovered the former home of Fortune Records, the Motor City label where he cut his first hits, was now an overgrown empty lot. Struck by this, Williams began writing lyrics about what Detroit was, is, and could be, and these tunes dominate 2016's I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City. The almost-80-year-old R&B wildman actually sings more about life on the mean streets than about sex this time out, limiting most of his obsessions about the opposite sex to the tune "Mississippi Sue" (who turns out to have passed on, making the finished product a bit less than lascivious). And if Williams imagines a future Detroit where there's a party on every corner in "Detroit (So Glad I Stayed)," married to a groove that's half-Funkadelic and half-Stooges, the grit of "Times" shows his optimism goes only so far. I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City is an unusually thoughtful album from the typically hard-partying Mr. Rhythm, and the musicians working behind him keep the music lean, sharp, and on point, especially Motown guitar legend Dennis Coffey and Outrageous Cherry founder Matthew Smith. (The latter produced the sessions with Williams.) Whether he's lamenting the uphill climb of life in his hometown, letting someone know why they're no longer friends, or telling the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame just what they can do, I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City makes it clear Andre Williams still has a lot on his mind, and time hasn't dulled his impact one bit. ~ Mark Deming