17 November 2005

willie hightower - "walk a mile in my shoes" (from the willie hightower lp, available for purchase here.)

in brief : more unjustly neglected soul, brought to you by astralwerks, of all people.

though written and performed by joe south, the version of "walk a mile in my shoes" i knew best was elvis presley's, from that's the way it is. from "the ghetto" to "if i can dream," late-period elvis was on the look out for songs that meant something. "walk a mile in my shoes" is such a song, but coming from the king, the man w/ the most famous first name in the world, it seems to be more of a call for personal empathy than social understanding; to demonstrate how much the song's theme was a leitmotif for elvis's later life, the compilers of the box focusing on his 70's output named it after the song.

coming from a black man from alabama, though, the message comes straight on through. the king's shoes are, indeed, hard to fill, but hightower, w/ his apocalyptic tone and apoplectic style, is more than capable. the nearest comparison i can think of, though he himself is somewhat obscure, is freddie scott; more mainstream, dennis edwards of the temptations might sound like hightower if his voice was pitched slightly higher. at first, i resisted the slowed down tempo, but ultimately the stronger groove helped to compensate. hightower rides atop it expertly, showing that he doesn't need the wings he asks for in the song. what he did need was some open ears, but, recording in the early 70's, he came along at the wrong time for that. compared to the re-evaluation work done on james carr, the willie hightower project still has some work to do, but, on evidence, it is work one hopes get done.


Richard said...

Well, what with the fab Bettye Swann release last year, I don't find the Astralwerks/soul connection completely unlikely.

fred said...

no, you're right. also, they did the shuggie otis reissue several years ago. still, it's enough to cause me mild surprise. (although, at this point in history, i'm not quite sure *what* to expect from astralwerks, so it might as well be soul.)